Molluscum (Molluscum Contagiosum)

You probably haven’t heard of this one before. I never had, and I think I may have it.

Molluscum is a virus that affects the skin, creating tiny nodules where ever it colonizes. It has no real side effects, and as far as I know is not tested for in any regular STD screening (It certainly was never included in any testing I’ve had.) I seriously debated whether to include it in this list, partly because it really isn’t an STI anyone has to worry about, partly because there are a number of ways it can be transmitted other than sexual contact. I decided to include it mainly because I am tired of the hysteria over STIs, and want to clearly show that there are STIs that are not in any way dangerous or worrisome.

Transmission: Molluscum is transmitted through skin contact. If you brush up against a molluscum sore on someone else, the virus transfers to your skin. Among adults, the virus is most often transmitted through sexual contact, though it can be transmitted by sharing towels or clothes, or just sharing a bear hug. There is some evidence that hair waxing may increase the risk of viral skin infections, including molluscum.

Children usually contract molluscum from their parents, but can pick it up at public pool and other areas where people share chairs or towels and don’t wear many clothes.

Symptoms: The main (and practically only) symptom of molluscum is a small bump which can be white, pink or flesh colored and is usually slightly shiny. The bump is dry and may have a dimple or pit in the center. On average, the bumps are 3-5 mm in diameter, though size may vary. Bumps are usually painless, but may be itchy or sore.

Scratching at a bump without washing your hands may cause the virus to be transferred to other areas of your body, leading to more bumps developing. Bumps usually disappear on their own in 6 to 12 months, but have been known to remain up to four years.

Prevention: Condoms can prevent molluscum spreading in the genital regions which are covered by the condom. Watertight bandages over the bumps can prevent spread from casual contact. Don’t share towels or clothes. Wash your hands regularly, especially if you itch a lot or touch someone else near a bump.

Treatment: Bumps should only be removed by a health care professional. Prescription skin treatments and oral medicine may get rid of the bumps without scarring, though it takes longer that other methods. Treatment is recommended for bumps that are in the genital area.

Complications: Scratching at the bumps may lead to bacterial infection. Removal of the bumps may cause scarring. That’s it.

People with HIV/AIDS or other immune suppressing conditions may be at risk of serious illness from bacterial infection.


Go back to The Long List of STIs