What Causes Molluscum Contagiosum?


Quick Answer

Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a virus that is spread from person to person, according to Mayo Clinic. This fairly common skin infection is most common in children, but adults, especially those with weak immune symptoms, can get it as well.

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Full Answer

The condition is spread by skin-to-skin contact or exposure to contaminated objects, Mayo Clinic reports. It can be spread by sharing toys or towels or touching a faucet after an infected person. Adults with molluscum contagiosum can also spread the virus through sexual contact.

The infection causes firm round bumps ranging in size from a pinhead to a pencil eraser, Mayo Clinic explains. The bumps are painless, but scratching or rubbing them can spread the virus to nearby skin. Placing a bandage over the bumps and avoiding scratching them helps keep them from spreading, according to WebMD.

A doctor can treat the bumps from molluscum contagiosum, but they typically go away on their own, WebMD says. Treatment options include medications used to treat warts or putting a chemical such as cantharidin on the bumps. Sometimes doctors perform cryosurgery to freeze the bumps or scrap them off the skin. Removal is normally preferred if the bumps appear on the genitals.

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