Bumps or pimples on the penis are typically nothing to worry about, as is the case for Fordyce spots. However, bumps associated with other symptoms or a history of unprotected sexual intercourse may indicate something more serious.
Finding bumps on your penis may be alarming. However, in most cases, it is perfectly normal. Many men have penile bumps in the absence of any underlying cause, which may not be a concern, especially in cases where no other symptoms are present and there is no history of unprotected sexual intercourse.
Some of the harmless causes of bumps on the penis, which are a part of the normal penile structure, include:
- Pearly penis papules (PPP): A common, harmless cause of penile bumps that are also called pearly penile papules. They are tiny, noncancerous (benign) growths on the penis that may appear as dome-shaped bumps that are pale pink or yellow to white. They form fine thread-like bumps in one to two rows around the head of the penis and are not associated with any symptoms, such as itching, pain or burning. They generally appear in adolescence and early adulthood.
- Fordyce spots: They appear as small yellowish to white bumps that are 1 to 5 mm in size. They are visible sebaceous or oil glands along the glans and shaft of the penis. About 80 to 95 percent of adults have Fordyce spots. They are more easily visible when the skin of the penis is stretched. They may occur as a single lesion but are generally seen in groups of 50 to 100 tiny bumps.
- Skin tags: Skin tags or acrochordons are soft skin growths. They are typically the size and shape of a grain of rice. They are common in the skin creases of the groin in middle-aged men. Skin tags may also be seen on other sites, such as the sides of the neck and armpits. They generally do not require treatment, but they may be an indication of insulin resistance (a condition in which the body does not respond well to the insulin hormone).
- Tyson glands: They are sebaceous glands appearing in pairs as openings on either side of the frenulum (the elastic band of connective tissue that connects the foreskin to the penis).
Bumps on the penis, however, may also be caused by certain conditions needing medical attention, such as:
When should I worry about the bumps on my penis?
Generally, penile bumps are not a cause of concern. You may need to consult your provider if:
- The bumps are associated with symptoms, such as itching, pain or burning.
- The bump is growing in size or increasing in number.
- The bump bleeds.
- The bump is causing discomfort or interfering with sexual activity.
- There is associated fever, weight loss or other generalized symptoms.
- You have a history of unprotected sexual intercourse.
How do you treat bumps on the penis?
Most penile bumps are harmless and need no intervention. You must, however, not scratch, pinch or pick on a penile bump because it may worsen the condition or cause infection. Do not apply any wart-removing medication or any other ointment or cream on your penis without consulting your doctor. Wart removers are typically harsh and can cause severe skin irritation and scarring on the penis.
The treatment of penile bumps depends on the condition causing it. Topical or oral medications may be prescribed to treat any infection. Harmless conditions, such as pearly penile papules, require no intervention. Rarely, the doctor may prescribe laser or cryotherapy if the appearance of the bumps bothers you.
Medically Reviewed on 7/14/2021
Rane V, Read T. Penile appearance, lumps and bumps. Aust Fam Physician. 2013 May;42(5):270-4. https://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2013/may/penile-appearance/