Molluscum is a viral skin infection caused by the virus molluscum contagiosum. It spreads by close physical contact, including sexual contact.
It can also be passed on through objects like towels or flannels.
Symptoms of molluscum
The only symptom of the virus are raised, painless pink or red spots which may be itchy. They may have a small white or yellow head and look pearly. They tend to be 2-5mm wide.
The substance inside the head of the spots is very contagious, so never squeeze them as you could spread the infection to other areas of your body.
If you have caught molluscum sexually, the spots are likely to be around the groin, genital area, lower abdomen, buttocks and upper thighs.
The spots will usually clear up in around six to 18 months.
How it's passed on
Molluscum is spread through close physical contact or by sharing something like a towel that is contaminated.
It’s particularly common in people who have a weakened immune system, including people living with HIV with a very low CD4 count.
Molluscum can spread through sexual contact. This means any type of sexual activity including sexual intercourse.
You should use a condom while having sex to reduce the risk of passing it on, but it’s still possible because it’s transferred by close skin contact.
If someone has molluscum they are considered to be contagious until the last spot has completely healed.
Molluscum tests and treatment
A nurse or doctor can diagnose molluscum by looking at the spots. If they are uncertain of the diagnosis, they can take a sample for testing.
The infection usually clears up without treatment in six to 18 months. However, if you have HIV with a very low CD4 count, it may take longer to clear up.
In some cases a doctor or nurse may prescribe treatment to try to clear up molluscum faster, especially if the spots are affecting your quality of life or if you have HIV. However, some treatments can have side effects.