Molluscum Contagiosum (Adult)

Molluscum contagiosum is a common skin infection. It is caused by a pox virus. The infection results in raised, flesh-colored bumps with central indentations on the skin. The bumps are sometimes itchy, but not painful. They may spread or form lines when scratched. Almost any area of skin can be affected. Common sites include the face, neck, armpit, arms, hands, and genitals.

Molluscum contagiosum spreads easily from one part of the body to another. It spreads through scratching or other contact. It can also spread from person to person. This often happens through shared clothing, towels, or objects such as shared sports gear. It can spread during contact sports or sexual contact.

Because it is caused by a virus, antibiotics don't help. The infection usually goes away on its own within a period of 6 to 18 months, but may spread if not treated. The infection may continue in people with a weak immune system. This includes people with diabetes, cancer, or HIV.

If the bumps are bothersome or unsightly, treatment may remove them. This may include scraping, freezing, or by applying an acid, blistering solution, or a cream that modulates the immune system.

Home care

Your healthcare provider can prescribe a medicine to help the bumps heal. Follow the provider’s instructions for using these medicines.  

The following are general care guidelines:

  • Don't scratch the rash. Scratching spreads the infection. If needed, cover affected skin with bandages to help prevent scratching.

  • Wash your hands before and after caring for the rash.

  • Don't share towels, washcloths, or clothing with anyone.

  • Don't shave any areas where the bumps are present.

  • Don't have sex if the bumps are in the genital area.

  • If participating in contact sports or other activity that involves skin-to-skin contact, cover all affected skin with clothing or bandages.

  • Don't swim in public pools until the rash clears.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Signs of infection, such as warmth, pain, oozing, or redness

  • Bumps appear on a new area of the body or seem to be spreading rapidly

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