When you notice a bump on your penis, your mind may race to the worst-case scenario like genital cancer or a sexually transmitted disease (STI). While STIs are serious, it’s important to rule out any other causes first.
Pearly penile papules are dome-shaped, harmless growths on the skin that usually appear in adolescence and early adulthood. They look similar to genital warts and molluscum contagiosum, which are also common and harmless.
There are a number of different reasons you might have bumps on your penis, some of which can be serious. It’s important to get any new bumps or rashes on the penis examined by a doctor right away, especially if you have any symptoms that could indicate an STD. Some of the most common STDs that can cause bumps on the penis include genital herpes, herpes simplex, and syphilis.
Herpes simplex, which is spread through unprotected sex, can cause red bumps that resemble pimples. These lumps may erupt into open sores that ooze clear fluid or pus. This STD can be very painful and it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible if you have herpes.
Syphilis, a bacterial STD, also causes sores on the penis that look like pimples. This infection can cause serious health problems, including affecting your heart and brain. The first signs of syphilis are small, raised, itchy bumps called chancres that develop around three weeks after the bacteria enters the body. These bumps are usually not painful, but they can be hard to remove from the groin area and they should only be removed by a healthcare professional.
Other conditions that can cause bumps on the penis can include a skin condition called dermatitis in the groin (penile eczema), psoriasis, genital warts, or molluscum contagiosum. These conditions can be very itchy and can cause the skin to appear scaly, ashen or purple-grey in darker skin tones and red in lighter skin tones.
Penile pimples are usually caused by non-contagious conditions, such as a cyst. These red, painless bumps are a common skin problem that occurs throughout the body, and usually go away on their own after a few days or weeks. But if the lump or bump oozes, changes color or shape, or itch, it is important to visit a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis.
Other types of bumps on the penis can also be a cause for concern, such as Fordyce spots or molluscum contagiosum. Fordyce spots are enlarged oil glands that aren’t associated with hair follicles, and they can appear on the lips, inside the mouth, or the genital area in addition to the penis. They look like small white or yellow spots and are typically harmless (Singal, 2020). Molluscum contagiosum is a viral infection that causes firm, painless, round bumps on the skin that often resemble acne. It typically occurs in clusters on the groin and thighs but can spread to the chest, abdomen, arms, and genitals. It is generally not harmful but should be diagnosed and treated by a physician to reduce the risk of spreading it to others.
Bumps on the penis can also be a sign of sexually transmitted infections, or STDs. These are more serious than the benign causes and need to be treated right away. Herpes, for example, can cause painful, blistering sores on the genital area and recur frequently. Genital warts are another common STI that can appear on the penis. Syphilis is an STD that may give you painless ulcers on your genitals.
Small bumps on the penis are common and usually not a cause for concern, but it is important to see a healthcare provider if the condition changes or appears serious. In some cases, the bumps may indicate a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that needs treatment.
Most of the time, the bumps on the head and shaft of the penis are caused by mild conditions like pearly penile papules, Fordyce spots or molluscum contagiosum. They are usually harmless, but if they are clustered closely together, they can resemble melanoma. Other times, the bumps are an early or precancerous stage of penile cancer called penile carcinoma in situ.
Generally, these types of bumps appear in adolescence or early adulthood and fade with age. Other causes include hair follicles that become clogged with acne-causing oil, skin debris or dead cells and the strains of HPV that can cause genital warts.
These types of pimple-like bumps are more common in men who are not circumcised and usually do not cause pain or discomfort. But, if they are painful or itchy, the doctor may prescribe a topical cream to treat them. A dermatologist can also examine the bumps to determine what is causing them and provide treatment accordingly. Bumps on the head and shaft of the penis that are caused by STIs require medical attention right away, and should not be left untreated because they could spread to other parts of the body.
Seeing bumps on your penis can be alarming, but they don’t always mean you have a sexually transmitted disease or other serious condition. Bumps on the head of the penis may be a cyst, Fordyce spots, or pearly penile papules. These are normal, harmless, and a part of the penis’ natural anatomy. Other bumps on the head of the penis can be a skin inflammation, such as lichen planus or angiokeratomas. These are also harmless, but you should have them looked at by your doctor if they’re clustered closely together or are red and itchy.
A lymphocele can also cause bumps on the penis. It’s a hard lump that happens when the lymphatic system can’t remove fluid from the penis because of an erection, so the fluid builds up in the lymphatic pathways and creates a lump. It’s usually painless and disappears on its own within a few minutes or hours.
Gonorrhea — a bacterial STD — can sometimes cause bumps on the penis. These start out as blisters or bumps, and they then typically erupt into open, painful and itchy skin ulcers (or wounds).
Genital herpes can also cause itching, bumps and sores in the penis area. These are generally caused by unprotected sex and can be spread from person to person. Using condoms is the best way to prevent genital herpes, and antiviral medicines can help ease symptoms when they appear.