What is Molluscum Contagiosum?

Molluscum Contagiosum is a skin condition most commonly afflicting children between the ages of 1 to 10 years, although it can affect individuals of any age. Cases of Molluscum infections have been on a steady incline in American for more than 50 years.

Characterized by red bumps that contain a pearl-colored and indented center, Molluscum Contagiosum, as the name implies, is contagious while visible and is caused by a virus. The virus is spread from person to person, typically through sharing contaminated items, such as towels, linens, toys, or sports equipment. It is also transmitted through direct contact with an infected person. A person can spread the virus from one part of the body to another by touching or scratching a lesion and then touching elsewhere.

Molluscum Contagiosum is not an airborne virus and it only resides on the epidermis, the topmost layer of the skin. Unlike herpes, which can stay in dormant mode, the Molluscum virus lasts only as long as the bumps are visible. Those at risk for infection are individuals who:

  • Have compromised immune systems due to HIV or certain cancer treatments
  • Live in hot, moist, and crowded environments
  • Have atopic dermatitis, which causes breaks in the skin

The most common areas in which people become infected are:

  • Swimming pools and gymnasiums where children or adults share toys, equipment, or towels
  • Academic institutions and day care centers
  • Hospitals or healthcare facilities where providers are in personal contact with patients


If a child or individual is infected, he or she should have the lesions covered with a water-tight dressing to prevent self or other contact. Other prevention techniques include frequent and appropriate hand-washing, avoiding contact with lesions on self or others, keeping skin clean and dry, not sharing personal items, and avoiding shaving if infected.

At Washington Dermatology Consultants in Arlington and Stafford, VA, Dr. Kenneth Neal and our professional dermatology team offer a comprehensive array of advanced medical, surgical, laser, and cosmetic dermatology. Dr. Neal is a board-certified and fellowship-trained physician and surgeon specializing in dermatology. We recommend that patients who are experiencing any type of skin condition be evaluated and treated promptly to avoid complications, scarring, or transmission. Treatment for Molluscum Contagiosum may involve laser, oral, and/or topical therapy.

A comprehensive consultation or an appointment may be requested online or by calling our friendly and knowledgeable team at (571) 431-6175.