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What Is Molluscum Contagiosum?

By Cara Essling, PA-C

Summertime is here – the time of year for heat, swimming and countless new cases of molluscum contagiosum.

Molluscum Contagiosum Defined

Often referred to as “water warts”, molluscum contagiosum is a skin disease caused by a virus. The condition is most common in children, due to the fact that young children have not yet developed immunity to the virus yet, and because children frequently engage in direct skin-to-skin contact with other children.  However, molluscum contagiosum can also affect adults. As suggested by its name, the condition is contagious. “Water warts” are most prevalent during summertime because the virus thrives in warmth and humidity, and because the virus is often contracted in swimming pools.

Contracting Water Warts

In addition to being contracted in pools, molluscum contagiosum can also be contracted by direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected individual, or with an infected object (towels, clothing, etc.). The virus can enter the body through any type of small break in the skin barrier.  The condition commonly affects individuals who have eczema or other skin conditions in which their skin barrier is compromised. Molluscum contagiosum is also more common in individuals who are affected by diseases that weaken the immune system;  however, any healthy individual can develop molluscum contagiosum if the virus enters their skin. 

Appearance of Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum lesions typically appear as small, shiny pink or flesh-colored dome-shaped growths.  The growths may have a central indentation or core. These water warts are often found in skin fold areas, such as the groin and armpits. Other commonly affected body areas include the chest, abdomen, buttocks, and face.

Treating Molluscum Contagiosum 

This disease is a benign condition that will run its course and eventually disappear on its own. However, treatment is often recommended to prevent the condition from spreading to other body areas or to other individuals. Several quick, in-office treatment options are available, as well as at-home treatment options. 


Do not hesitate to contact a dermatology provider if molluscum contagiosum is suspected, as the condition is easiest to control if treated early.

Topics and Subtopics: Skin Health

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