Water warts…what are they? Dr Nav has the answers!

What is Molluscum Contagiosum ?

Molluscum Contagiosum, sometimes known as water wart, is a common condition where small warty bumps (Mollusca) appear on the skin. It is caused by a virus that can be passed on by skin contact or from contaminated towels, flannels, soft toys etc. It is not serious and usually clears within 12-18 months without any treatment.

What does Molluscum Contagiosum look like?

The skin develops small lumps which are pearly-white or slightly pink. Each lump looks like a small swelling on the skin and is round, firm and about 2-5mm in diameter. A tiny dimple may develop on top of each molluscum. If you squeeze a molluscum, a white cheesy fluid comes out. There may be between one or even up to 30 molluscum on the body. They can develop on any part of the body but tend to appear in crops or clusters/ groups.

Who gets Molluscum Contagiosum?

It most commonly affects children especially the 1-10 yrs. age group. However, it can also affect adults although this is less common as most adults are resistant to the virus. Once one area of skin is affected the rash can spread to other areas of the skin. To reduce the chance of spreading it on to others, it is sensible not to share towels, clothes, soft toys or bathwater if you have molluscum contagiosum. Try not to scratch the mollusca, as this may increase the chance of infection as well as increase the risk of spreading the rash to other areas of the body.

Treatment for molluscum

There is no convincing evidence yet that any one treatment works best. The small lumps will usually go away without treatment within 12-18 months. Having the rash does not limit your activities such as going to school, sports, swimming etc.

Sometimes treatment is wanted, if the lesions are particularly unsightly or troublesome, or if they are spreading widely.

  • You should discuss this with your GP.
  • Treatment options may be Cryotherapy; where the lesions are frozen with liquid nitrogen, or creams and lotions may be applied topically to the lesions.
  • If the skin around the mollusca becomes itchy or infected, your GP will prescribe antibiotic creams for this.
  • If you think your child has molluscum contagiosum, have your doctor diagnose it and recommend treatment, if any, or refer you to a dermatologist.


Dr Nav Uppal is a Graduate of the University of Wales college of Medicine, Cardiff (UK). She became a member of the Royal College of General Practitioners in 2006 and has over 5 years experience working as a GP in UK.  

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