Molluscum contagiosum (Water warts)

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More than 200,000 US cases per year

  • Often self-diagnosable
  • Symptoms: Small smooth wart-like lesions with a small pit in the middle
  • Color: Typically flesh-colored or a little pink
  • Location: Anywhere on the skin
  • Treatment: No treatment necessary

ICD-10: B08

Sometimes called water warts, molluscum contagiosum is a common viral skin infection (poxvirus) with multiple small smooth wart-like lesions with a small pit in the middle. They are most common in children, but adults can also be affected.

Children who have other skin problems, such as eczema, are more likely than others to be affected. Children can spread the infection to a new location by scratching them. Immunity for life is most likely acquired once you have been infected. In addition, people with AIDS or compromised immune systems may develop extensive outbreaks. The incubation period can range from two weeks up to about six months.

Symptoms of Molluscum Contagiosum

Mollusks are usually the same color as your own skin or a little pink. They are two to five millimeters in size and has a small pit in the middle. In children, they tend to be most common on the abdomen, arms, face or neck. The disease can form anything from a single mollusk to many in the affected area. It usually takes a few months for a mollusk to go away and new mollusks often grow gradually.

Adults can get mollusks, which appear usually around the genitals, the lower abdomen and upper thighs. Mollusks can be a sexually transmitted infection by skin-to-skin contact.

What can I do?

Mollusks usually heal by itself. Before they disappear, they become red and irritated, and then crack. It is best to wait for them to heal by itself, which also lowers the risk of getting scars.

You do not need to do anything special to prevent infection. When all the mollusks healed, you are immune for life. Children who have mollusks can go to preschool, family or school as usual. If the child starts to itch on mollusks, causing a wound, you can reduce the risk of an infection in the wound by cutting the child’s fingernails short and keep them clean.

If you are infected with molluscum contagiosum, prevent spreading this disease by:

  • Avoid participating in sports such as wrestling, gymnastics, and swimming
  • Avoid sharing towels, washcloths, clothing, and other personal items
  • Avoid infected areas
  • Avoid sexual activities

Should I seek medical care?

Molluscum lesions are rarely treated because often they heal by themselves after some time and the procedure can cause harm.

Treatment for Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum lesions are rarely treated because often they heal by themselves after some time and the procedure can cause harm. It is rare to remove mollusks. Treatment is needed only in rare cases, when mollusks is inappropriate or uncomfortable, such as those located on the face. If mollusks are removed, it has to be done by a dermatologist. Sometimes, if one is removed by scraping, the immune system will react towards any remaining ones.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Molluscum Contagiosum. Available at

American Academy of Dermatology. Molluscum Contagiosum. Available at

American Sexual Health Association. Molluscum. Available at

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