Unifying Concepts

Diagnosis and Indications for Treatment of Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is generally a benign disease consisting of pearly, flesh-colored, umbilicated skin lesions 2 to 5 mm in diameter with a characteristic dimple at the center.

The diagnosis of molluscum contagiosum is usually made by the characteristic appearance of the lesions. When necessary, histologic or electron microscopic (EM) examination can confirm the clinical diagnosis. Hematoxylin and eosin staining reveals keratinocytes containing eosinophilic cytoplasmic inclusion bodies. EM of such biopsies would reveal typical brick-shaped poxvirus particles, similar to those of smallpox. EM also shows some infected cells that might look normal using light microscopy.

Reasons to treat molluscum contagiosum include:

  1. alleviating discomfort, including itching;
  2. cosmetic reasons;
  3. social stigma associated with many visible lesions;
  4. limiting it’s spread to other areas of the body and to other people;
  5. preventing scarring and secondary infection;
  6. preventing trauma and bleeding of lesions.



  1. van der Wouden JC, Menke J, Gajadin S, Koning S, Tasche MJ, van Suijlekom-Smit LW, Berger MY, Butler CC. Interventions for cutaneous molluscum contagiosum. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Apr 19;(2):CD004767. [Medline]


Created: Apr 16, 2008

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