If you have bumps on your penis, you should know that there are a variety of issues that can cause them. Bumps on the penis can be pimples or other relatively minor skin conditions that are not contagious at all or can stem from one of several sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and skin issues that can be passed on to sexual partners.
The risk factors for STDs are greater than we tend to think. Here, we’ll go over the various possibilities to help you get an idea of what may be causing your bumps, and how to find out for sure, whether you should be worried about them.
What Non-Contagious Conditions Cause Bumps on Your Penis?
There are many causes of bumps on the shaft of the penis, that may be uncomfortable and perhaps unsightly, if you have them, but are not a threat to your health or that of any sexual partners. Some of the most common include:
- Penile pimples – Just like pimples on your face or back, penile pimples happen when pores get clogged. If pores on the penis become clogged with dead skin cells, whitehead or blackhead pimples can form. A clogged pore can often also contain a mixture of dead skin cells, bacteria and oil, resulting in pimples that contain pus, feel like a hardened lump and/or feel sore or tender when touched.
- Pearly penile papules – These are hard, fleshy or white bumps that are located around the head of the penis. They are considered a natural part of the penis, composed of glands that produce lubricating oils, and are entirely harmless.
- Razor burn/ingrown hairs – This can become a problem for those who shave their pubic hair. Generally, razor burn appears as a red, bumpy rash, with ingrown hairs, which resemble pus-filled pimples, often appearing in the area as hair starts to grow out again.
- Folliculitis – These are bumps that resemble pimples and are caused by inflammation of hair follicles that produce pubic hairs. They may also be itchy and/or painful.
- Fordyce spots – These are visible sebaceous glands and are harmless. Sebaceous glands are the glands, usually located beneath hair follicles, that produce skin oil to moisturize and protect the skin. Often, these are visible in areas that do not have hair and/or in areas where the skin is thin, like the penis, appearing as small while or yellow spots in these areas.
- Tyson glands – These too, are visible sebaceous glands. They appear as bumps in the small skin folds at the base of the penis. These bumps are harmless.
- Lymphocele lumps – These lumps form due to blocked lymph fluids, causing the fluid to build up as a lump under the skin along the shaft of the penis. These lumps generally occur after sexual activity or masturbation.
What STDs and Contagious Conditions Cause Bumps on Your Penis?
Any number of STDs or other transmittable conditions can be the source of bumps that develop on and/or around the penis. Among the more common infectious diseases that may cause this are:
- Molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV) – This is a viral skin infection that, when it appears on and/or around the penis, is considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It can be passed from one person to another via sexual activity, and produces clusters of small, raised bumps in affected areas.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) – HPV is a viral STD, and some strains of the HPV virus can cause genital warts to develop on and around the penis. Genital warts typically appear as flesh-colored bumps, although, in some cases, they can be white lumps that resemble cauliflower in appearance. Most often, they develop along the shaft of the penis.
- Syphilis – This is a serious and very contagious STD, caused by a bacterium. This disease is spread via sexual contact, and when it infects the penis, it can cause red bumps to appear on it, which typically become open sores as the infection progresses.
- Gonorrhea – A bacterial STD, gonorrhea can, in some cases, cause bumps on the penis. These generally begin as blisters, which then typically develop into skin ulcers (open sores) before clearing.
- Chlamydia – This is another bacterial STD, which causes a highly contagious infection. Bumps or sores may appear on the penis, in some cases.
- Herpes Simplex – A viral STD, genital herpes may first appear as bumps or blisters on and around the penis. As herpes outbreaks progress over time, those blisters or bumps generally become open, painful and/or itchy skin ulcers.
What Should You Do If You Aren’t Sure of The Cause?
If you are sexually active, have bumps on your penis and aren’t sure what has caused them, whether they are itchy, painful, painless, open sores or look like pimples, the first thing that you should do is get screened for common STDs. This is easy to do via lab tests, which are typically a combination of blood and urine tests. You can see your doctor to get tested, visit an STD clinic, or order your testing directly from Testing.com. At home STD testing kits are available that offer even greater privacy and convenience.
This is important even if your bumps have cleared up on their own, since they may disappear even while you still carry a sexually transmitted infection. Fact is, you should be getting tested once a year anyway as a matter of routine, which is recommended for all sexually active people to protect their sexual health and avoid unknowingly spreading an infection to others.
If you test positive for a bacterial or viral STD, getting treatment as soon as possible is essential for your health and that of any sexual partners you are involved with. Those partners will also need treatment to protect their health and prevent disease spread. If STD tests are negative, seeing your doctor to have those bumps examined and diagnosed is your next best step, since even those stemming from harmless causes can often be treated, making you more comfortable and less self-conscious about your appearance.
Cleveland Clinic. Cyst on Penis. Updated July 8, 2022. Accessed February 10, 2023. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/23548-cyst-on-penis
National Library of Medicine. Penile Warts. Updated December 19, 2018. Accessed February 10, 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6302884/
MedlinePlus. Genital Warts. Updated December 2, 2020. Accessed February 10, 2023. https://medlineplus.gov/genitalwarts.html