SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Molluscum contagiosum (or MC) is a mild, harmless viral skin infection with small, smooth, round, pearly lumps with a central core.
- Molluscum contagiosum is common in children. It spreads from close contact with other children who are infected.
- Molluscum contagiosum is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in adults and can spread by skin-to-skin contact during sex.
- The infection usually resolves itself, but treatment can shorten the length of symptoms.
Molluscum contagiosum and how it spreads
Molluscum contagiosum can spread:
- from close skin-to-skin contact with others who have the virus (especially in children)
- as a through skin-to-skin contact during
- around the body by scratching (especially in areas where the skin is broken)
- occasionally by bathing (in bath or pool water)
- sometimes by touching objects that have the virus on them (such as bath toys, towels, clothing or bedding).
Symptoms of molluscum contagiosum
Molluscum contagiosum may cause small lumps or lesions (around 1–5 mm in diameter). They mainly appear on the skin of the thighs, buttocks, groin, genitals and abdomen. Molluscum contagiosum usually does not affect other parts of the body.
Image of molluscum contagiosum, courtesy DermNet
- are painless, but may be itchy
- often have a tiny central indentation (core)
- can be many and cover the thighs, genital and stomach
- are ‘self-limiting’, meaning they resolve without treatment within a few months.
Diagnosing molluscum contagiosum
If you notice any unusual skin lesions, see your doctor or health professional for an accurate diagnosis.
There is no test for molluscum contagiosum. It is diagnosed through a physical examination by looking at the appearance of the lesions.
Molluscum contagiosum treatment
Treatment for molluscum contagiosum is available. The length of treatment can vary from person to person.
Sexual partners of someone who has molluscum contagiosum do not need treatment if they do not have lesions.
Remember, molluscum contagiosum will eventually clear up after 6-18 months if left untreated.
Liquid nitrogen treatment (cryotherapy)
Lesions are usually treated by a clinician with liquid nitrogen (known as cryotherapy). Cryotherapy freezes the lesions and helps to reduce the time symptoms are present.
Liquid nitrogen treatment:
- Is available from local general practitioners (GPs) and sexual health centres.
- Is cosmetic and not a cure – the virus remains on the skin until your immune system removes it.
- Usually only requires a single treatment. It may take a couple of weeks for the lumps to disappear after freezing.
Other treatment for molluscum contagiosum
Molluscum contagiosum can be treated with a topical cream prescribed by a doctor. It needs to be applied daily to the lumps (lesions).
It is best not to shave, trim or wax hair affected by molluscum contagiosum to minimise the risk of spreading the infection to other areas of your body.
Molluscum contagiosum potential risks
Complications with molluscum contagiosum are rare.
To reduce the risk of spreading molluscum contagiosum and other bacterial infections, try not to pick, squeeze or irritate the lesions. There is no need to apply creams or lotions to the affected areas, just keep up your usual .
If molluscum contagiosum is not treated
Molluscum contagiosum is a mild, ‘self-limiting’ skin infection.
Without treatment, it can persist for 6-18 months, but will eventually resolve.
The duration and severity of molluscum contagiosum varies from person to person.
Molluscum contagiosum and sex
Where to get help
- . To book an appointment call SHV Melbourne CBD Clinic: or call SHV Box Hill Clinic: or (free call): . These services are youth friendly.
- Tel. or or TTY (for the hearing impaired)
- (formerly Victorian AIDS Council) Tel. or
- Tel. Or
- , Wodonga Tel. or
- (throughout Victoria)
- Tel: is a statewide phone service for information about sexual health as well as contraception and pregnancy options