Diagnosis

Health care providers usually can diagnose molluscum contagiosum just by looking at it. If there's any doubt, they may take skin scrapings from the infected area and view them under a microscope.


Treatment

Molluscum contagiosum usually gets better without treatment in 6 months to 2 years. Once the bumps are gone, you're no longer contagious. After healing, it's possible to become reinfected with the virus.

For severe or widespread disease, your health care provider might refer you to a specialist in skin conditions (dermatologist) to discuss options for removing the bumps.

Treatment might involve one or a combination of the following:

  • A medicine that irritates the sores, such as retinoic acid or benzoyl peroxide
  • A medicine that causes blisters (cantharidin), which lifts off the bumps
  • Scraping
  • Freezing (cryotherapy)
  • Laser therapy, which might be an option for people with a weakened immune system

Some procedures can be painful, so your health care provider may numb your skin first. Possible side effects of treatment are infection and scarring.


Preparing for your appointment

You'll likely start by visiting your or your child's health care provider. Or you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in treating skin conditions (dermatologist).

Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and know what to expect from your health care provider.

What you can do

Before your appointment, write a list that answers the following questions:

  • What symptoms are you or your child experiencing?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve the symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen the symptoms?
  • What medications and supplements do you or your child take on a regular basis?

What to expect from your doctor

Your health care provider may ask:

  • When did the symptoms begin?
  • Do the symptoms come and go or are they nonstop?
  • Have you or your child had similar bumps in the past?
  • Has anyone close to you or your child had similar bumps?

Feb 16, 2024

  1. Molluscum contagiosum. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/molluscum-contagiosum/index.html. Accessed Feb. 22, 2022.
  2. Kliegman RM, et al. Cutaneous viral infections. In: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Elsevier; 2020. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 22, 2022.
  3. AskMayoExpert. Molluscum contagiosum. Mayo Clinic; 2022.
  4. Mukwende M, et al. Molluscum contagiosum. In: Mind the Gap: A Handbook of Clinical Signs in Black and Brown Skin. St. George's University of London; 2020. https://www.blackandbrownskin.co.uk/mindthegap. Accessed Feb. 22, 2022.
  5. Kelly AP, et al., eds. Mucocutaneous viral infections. In: Taylor and Kelly's Dermatology for Skin of Color. 2nd ed. McGraw Hill; 2016. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Feb. 22, 2022.

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