The only way to diagnose molluscum contagiosum is through a visual inspection of the infected area. A molluscum contagiosum is characterized by distinct bumps or lesions on the skin. In its early phase, the bumps are small, smooth, shiny, and pearl-like. The picture on the left shows new molluscum bumps. The picture on the right shows the bumps at a more advanced stage. They grow bigger in size, are more raised, are red in color, and usually have a white tip or a depression in the center. The molluscum will tend to spread around to nearby skin areas and even other areas that have been infected through touch.
Molluscum bumps can appear anywhere on the body, and are usually found more on the arms or legs, probably because the are the areas with skin that is most exposed to contact and infection. In adults, infections are common in the genital and pubic areas due to infection through sexual contact.
Other than appearance, a distinguishing characteristic of the molluscum bumps compared to, say, acne, is that molluscum bumps can itch. However, you really need to resist the temptation to scratch them because this will simply spread the infection around at a faster rate.
The symptoms of unsightly bumps and itching will persist as long as the infection is present. Once the infection is gone, the bumps will fade away slowly, losing their red color and swelling.