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The main symptom of molluscum contagiosum is small, hard bumps that look like donuts on your skin. They’re generally harmless, but only a nurse or doctor can tell you for sure whether you have molluscum contagiosum.

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Molluscum contagiosum symptoms

If you have molluscum contagiosum, you’ll have one or more hard, round growths near your genitals or on your thighs, arms, torso, neck, or face. They can be as small as the head of a pin or as large as a pencil eraser. The bumps are usually flesh-colored or discolored, and they often have a tiny dent or dimple in the middle. The bumps can show up alone or in groups. They usually don’t hurt, but they may be itchy, sore, swollen, or discolored. If you notice any skin irritation, rash, bumps, or blisters that don’t go away on their own after a few days, get them checked out by a nurse or doctor.

You’ll see symptoms where the infection happened. So if you get molluscum contagiosum from sex, you’ll probably notice bumps on your thighs and/or genital area. If you get it from sharing a towel, you’ll see bumps in places the towel touched.
Sometimes people don’t really notice the bumps or growths — they may be hard to see when there are only a few, they’re very small, and often don’t cause any problems. So some people who have molluscum contagiosum don’t know it.

You usually start getting bumps anywhere from 1 week to 6 months after you get the virus. They tend to go away by themselves within 6 months to a year, but can last up to 4 years.

What might make the symptoms worse?

If your immune system is weak — from HIV, cancer, or another illness — your molluscum contagiosum symptoms may be a lot worse, and you may be more likely to get it in the first place. You may have bigger outbreaks all over your body, and the bumps could be bigger and harder to treat.

Where can I get tested for molluscum contagiosum?

You can get a diagnosis for molluscum contagiosum (and other STDs) at your doctor’s office, a community health clinic, local health department, or at your local Planned Parenthood health center.

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