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Molluscum Contagiosum vs Genital Warts – Do You Know the Difference?

What is the difference between Molluscum and Warts?

At first glance it’s easy to confuse molloscum and warts. There are some similarities yet also some distinguishing differences.

Many people find molloscum on their skin and the first reaction is anxiety. They are often confused with warts and as such people get anxious about the thought of having warts, specifically genital warts. In contrast to genital warts and warts overall, molluscum is harmless.

Warts are usually also usually flesh colored but are many times not as perfectly round as the bumps coming from molloscum contagiosum (MC). You will often find that they also cluster and nearly overlap each other.

To identify Molluscum Contagiosum from genital warts or other kinds of warts, you or your doctor must look at the following distinguishing factors.

Molloscum Contagiosum Bumps

Molloscum Contagiosum, Image from commons.wikimedia.org

Size and Shape

Bumps from molluscum are, as mentioned, pretty small in size. They measure about two to five millimeters in diameter. They also do not grow and usually do not have a tendency to swell. The bumps are also usually a nearly perfect circle. They are dome-shaped and have a depression in the center.

Warts often grow larger than the size of the bumps caused by Molloscum. They also often grow in clusters making them look a little like a cauliflower. They sometimes are round but often take more oval shapes and can have a rough texture. Their edges are often not as clearly defined as the round shape of Molloscum contagiosum.


In nearly all cases the bumps of molloscum contagiosum are flesh colored and pearly. They have a smooth surface and the shape of a dome.

Warts are also often flesh colored but can also be greyish or brown in color. They are often dry and rough on the surface.


Molluscum contagiosum is often found in the facial area including the neck, on the chest and stomach or around the groin and genitals. You can have one, a few or groups of these bumps show up.

Genital warts are always in the genital or anal areas. They can grow around the area of the genitals or outside or inside of them. They can be found on or around the anus, on or around the penis and inside or around the vagina. Other kinds of warts can establish themselves anywhere on your body.

Genital warts in many cases tend to itch and to get dry. They can cause increased vaginal discharge and even changes in the bleeding during the menstrual cycle.

Who gets Molloscum?

Molluscum contagiosum is often found in children and young adults. It somehow seems to come with eczema or asthma in many cases.

The condition is overall harmless. The bumps do not itch and are also not painful. When being scratched or irritated they may spread to other parts of the body. In some cases they can be found in groups which are then also referred to as crops.

How to Treat Molluscum Contagiosum?

There are a number of treatments available for Molluscum Contagiosum. In many cases, if you do nothing the bumps will go away by themselves. However, that can take a year or more before that happens.

There are numerous ways to treat molluscum. The most common by a doctor are to freeze, scrape or surgically remove them. Surgical removal can be usually done electrically or with a laser.

Most OTC treatments for molloscum contagiosum are based on chemical agents. Typically, some sort of acid to eventually get rid of the bumps.

What to do when you suspect you might have MC?

While it overall is pretty straightforward to differentiate bumps that come from molloscum contagiosum vs. genital warts, you always want to be certain. It is best to have your doctor perform the diagnosis so you can be certain to treat the bumps the right way.

Don’t attempt to self-diagnose your condition. Your doctor will have seen many conditions like yours and there’s no reason to be embarrassed about it. He or she will be able to give you the correct answer as to whether you’re looking at genital warts or MC.

Once you have a definitive diagnosis you can decide what course of treatment to choose. Any treatment at your doctor will most likely cost you a ton more than OTC treatments you perform in the privacy of your home.

Over the counter treatments for MC range from homeopathic remedies like ZymaDerm for Molloscum to essential oils with Tea Tree Oil or Thuja Occidentalis to Lemon Balm Oil (Melissa Leaf Oil) to TCA (trichloroacetic acid). Pretty much all of these treatments have proven to work and to be successful.

When you’re treating a child with Molloscum Contagiosum then you most likely want to make sure that you use a gentle solution that is based on homeopathic ingredients or essential oils. TCA might end up too harsh in those cases. Considering that MC is benign and is often found in the groin area you might in any case start your treatment with a gentle product. Both ZymaDerm for Molloscum and Lemon Balm Oil have received high satisfaction ratings by patients who used them to treat MC.

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