What is molluscum contagiosum?
Molluscum contagiosum is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI) but can be passed on through sexual contact. It is a harmless viral infection that appears as raised pink spots on the skin, usually with a dimple/pit in the middle. It can occur at any age.
What are the symptoms?
The only symptoms of molluscum contagiosum is small, firm, raised pink spots on the skin with a central dimple/pit in the middle. These spots can vary in size number and location on the body. On the genitals, they are often seen in the pubic hair area. They are not painful but can be itchy.
How do you get them?
Molloscum contagiosum is spread through:
- Skin-to-skin contact including intimate physical contact and sexual intercourse
- Touching objects that have become contaminated such as towels, toys or clothing
How do you prevent it?
Since this is passed on mainly by skin-to-skin contact, you can reduce the risk of spreading the infection by taking the following steps:
- Not squeezing or scratching the spots
- Covering affected areas of skin with clothing where possible
- Not sharing towels, clothing or baths
- Using a condom during sex
How do you get tested?
This condition is not diagnosed by a test but by a visual examination by your doctor or nurse. Molluscum contagiosum symptoms are easily recognised by healthcare professionals experienced in sexual health so it is best to attend your local sexual health clinic to get them looked at.
What treatment is available?
The spots caused by molluscum contagiosum are harmless and will clear up without treatment over a period of time – usually 12-24 months. Adults with genital spots may feel anxious about the appearance and prefer to have them treated. Treatment is cosmetic (improves the appearance only) and commonly involves freezing the spots. Your local sexual health clinic can advise about treatment options.
- NHS Choices has lots of information about STIs including a specific page on molluscum contagiosum