STI Factsheet: Molluscum contagiosum (skin infection)

It's a mouthful but this skin infection can cause a lot of hassle.
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Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin infection. It is not serious or dangerous, but it can cause growths to form, and can appear in the genital area when spread by sexual contact.

Symptoms of molluscum contagiosum

Symptoms usually appear in the first three months after infection. This includes:

  • Small painless pearly growths which maybe very itchy
  • Each growth will generally last for 2-3 months if left untreated

Growths on the skin

You may develop small pearly, smooth fluid-filled growths on your skin, that appear like bumps or lumps. They are most common in the genital area, the inner thighs and the lower abdomen. They can also be present around the anus (bum). These growths may be mistaken for genital herpes or warts.

Each growth will generally last for about two to three months. The infection itself will generally last for about 6-18 months. The growths do not generally leave scars, unless you scratch them a lot.

You should avoid sexual contact until treatment is complete, as you could spread the virus to someone else this way. It is also best to avoid touching them for the same reason.

Symptoms tend to be much worse and the infection can last for longer in people with weakened immune systems from illnesses such as cancer, HIV or AIDS. 

Treatment for molluscum contagiosum

You will need to visit your doctor to have molluscum contagiosum diagnosed. The growths can be removed with several different treatments, usually by freezing the growths or removal with a small needle.

Molluscum contagiosum is a virus, so once you have it, the symptoms may come back again. However, it can be treated easily by attending an appointment with your GP or local STI clinic.

How can you prevent molluscum contagiosum?

Condoms offer some protection against infection, but you can become infected from skin to skin contact alone. It’s important to get tested regularly for STIs, and ask your partner(s) to do the same. Find a free STI clinics in Ireland near you.

Molluscum contagiosum can occur on other parts on the body, so it is recommended not to share towels or personal items of clothing

Remember: The age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17. If you’re over 16, you can consent to medical treatment including any treatment or tests needed.

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