Diagnosis

Your doctor usually can diagnose molluscum contagiosum just by looking at it. If there's any doubt, he or she may take skin scrapings from the infected area and view them under a microscope.

Treatment

Molluscum contagiosum usually gets better without treatment in six to 12 months. However, it's possible to continue developing bumps for up to five years. Once all of your bumps are gone, you're no longer contagious.

Doctors may recommend that the lesions be removed before they disappear on their own, particularly in adults, because they are so contagious. Treatments for molluscum contagiosum can be painful, so an anesthetic might be administered beforehand to lessen discomfort. Sometimes a combination of treatments may be used.

Medications

In some cases, prescription or over-the-counter medications applied directly to the lesions may be helpful. Examples include:

  • Irritating products. These preparations often contain ingredients such as salicylic acid or potassium hydroxide that help dissolve the lesion over time. Others may cause a blister to form under the bump, lifting it off your skin.
  • Topical creams. Prescription creams and gels containing retinoids — such as tretinoin (Atralin, Retin-A, others), adapalene (Differin) and tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac) — have been used to treat molluscum contagiosum. These medications cannot be used during pregnancy.

Surgical and other procedures

The methods doctors use to remove molluscum contagiosum bumps include:

  • Scraping
  • Freezing (cryotherapy)
  • Laser therapy

Molluscum contagiosun doesn't stay in the body once the infection has cleared up, but you can be reinfected with this virus if you come in contact with someone who has an active infection.

Preparing for your appointment

You'll likely start by visiting your or your child's primary care practitioner. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred immediately to a doctor who specializes in treating skin conditions (dermatologist).

Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well-prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and know what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

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

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

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • Have you had similar lesions in the past?
  • Has anyone close to you had similar lesions?
March 21, 2015
References
  1. Molluscum (Molluscum contagiosum): Frequently asked questions for everyone. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/molluscum/faq/everyone.htm. Accessed Jan. 14, 2015.
  2. Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/book.aspx?bookid=331. Accessed Jan. 11, 2015.
  3. Papadakis MA, ed., et al. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2015. 54th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2015. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/book.aspx?bookID=1019. Accessed Jan. 11, 2015.
  4. Isaacs SN. Molluscum contagiosum. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 11, 2015.