Molluscum contagiosum (MC)

What is it?

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin infection.

How do I catch it?

The MC virus is transmitted through close skin contact, including genital contact during sex.

Symptoms

The most common symptom of MC is the appearance of small spots or abnormal patches on the skin. This is usually the only symptom. In sexually active adults, the spots usually appear on the groin area, spreading upwards over the pubic and abdominal (tummy) areas, genitals and inner thighs.

The spots are usually firm, raised and painless. You may notice that some of the spots have a tiny grey head in the centre and look pearly. This head may rupture (split), causing a thick yellowy-white substance to escape. This substance is highly infectious so you should avoid handling or squeezing the spots, or shaving the skin in that area, as this can spread the infection to other parts of the body.

The spots do not usually leave scars, but you may notice that each one leaves a tiny patch of lighter skin or a small pitted mark.

Testing

Molluscum contagiosum is usually diagnosed by physical examination. A doctor may also take a sample from one of the spots.

Treatment

In most cases, molloscum contagiosum will go away within 18 months without the need for treatment. However, you are likely to pass on the infection to sexual partners so if you're found to have the infection you will usually be offered treatment. MC can be treated with cryotherapy (freezing) with liquid nitrogen, which has a rapid effect.

All Umbrella clinics provide treatment for sexually transmitted infections. To find clinics, and to see which services they offer, please see the service locator.

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Worried about molluscum contagiosum?

How to avoid STIs

See the FPA website for a range of downloadable leaflets on contraception and sexually transmitted infections.

View FPA leaflets

The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) website also features a range of downloadable leaflets on STIs.

View BASHH leaflets