The male reproductive system contains both internal and external components. The penis is an external organ of the male reproductive system. It’s made up of three parts: the root, the body (shaft), and the glans penis.
You may also hear the glans penis referred to as the head or the tip of the penis. Keep reading to learn about the anatomy and function of the glans penis, as well as some of the health conditions that may affect it.
The glans penis is found at the end of the penis shaft. In addition to the main part of the glans, which is typically cone-shaped, there are also some other areas to be aware of:
- Neck: The neck of the glans penis separates it from the shaft of the penis.
- Corona: This is the rounded border that projects from the base of the glans penis.
- Meatus: The meatus is the opening of the male urethra that’s located at the very tip of the glans penis.
- Prepuce (foreskin): The foreskin is a loose layer of skin that covers the glans penis. In some men, this is removed by a procedure called circumcision.
The glans penis is important for both urination and reproduction. When the penis is flaccid, urine may be expelled from the body via the urethra.
The glans penis also contains a high concentration of nerve endings. This makes it the most sensitive part of the penis.
This sensitivity is important for sexual stimulation and ejaculation. In fact, some studies
The glans penis is often described as cone-shaped, mushroom-shaped, or even acorn-shaped. In fact, the word “glans” means “acorn” in Latin.
Regardless of the way it’s described, the size and shape of the glans penis can vary from man to man. In some men, the glans penis may be large and bulbous, while in others it may be narrower.
Additionally, the glans penis can sometimes have benign (noncancerous) growths called pearly penile papules. These typically appear as small bumps on or around the corona of the glans penis.
Now let’s explore some of the various health conditions that can affect the glans penis and the symptoms you can look out for.
- pain or irritation
- thick, white discharge (smegma)
- painful urination
- a rash or sores
Balanitis can have a variety of causes, including poor personal hygiene, skin irritation, and infections. The foreskin can also become inflamed. When both the glans penis and the foreskin are inflamed, it’s called balanoposthitis.
A variety of infections can affect the male genitalia, including the glans penis. Examples include:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV): Some strains of HPV cause the formation of genital warts, which are raised lesions that have an irregular, cauliflower-like appearance.
- Candida infection: This is a fungal infection of the penis. Symptoms can include itching, redness, and discharge.
- Herpes simplex virus (HSV): HSV-2 most commonly causes genital herpes, but HSV-1 can cause it as well. Infection can cause painful lesions or ulcers to form.
- Gonorrhea and chlamydia: Both of these are sexually transmitted infections caused by bacteria. Symptoms you may notice around the glans penis include discharge and painful urination.
- Syphilis: A painless, round sore called a chancre is the main symptom of primary syphilis. The chancre can appear anywhere in the genital area, including on the glans penis.
- Scabies: Scabies is an infestation with a type of mite. Burrows and papules due to scabies can sometimes be seen on the glans penis. One of the most common symptoms is itching.
Lichen sclerosus is a chronic inflammatory condition that can primarily affect the glans penis and foreskin. Symptoms of lichen sclerosus can include:
- skin that feels thin or like crinkled paper
- loss of skin pigmentation
- trouble with urination
- painful erections
Like lichen sclerosus, lichen planus is also an inflammatory condition. It can affect the skin and mucus membranes, including the genitals and glans penis.
Lesions due to lichen planus on the glans penis are raised and appear purplish. A lacy, white pattern may also appear around the lesions. Pain or itching may also occur.
Angiokeratomas are small red or bluish lesions that can occur on the glans penis as well as in other genital areas. While they’re benign and typically asymptomatic, they may bleed or become painful or itchy in some cases.
Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition that can also affect the genitals. If you have psoriasis on or around your glans penis, you may notice areas of skin that are:
Phimosis is when the foreskin is tight and can’t be pulled back to reveal the glans penis. It can cause symptoms like pain, redness, and swelling. You may also experience pain, loss of sensitivity, and skin splitting during sex.
Phimosis is similar to another more serious condition called paraphimosis. This is when the foreskin becomes trapped behind the glans penis. It’s considered a medical emergency because it can limit blood flow to the penis.
Hypospadias is a condition where the opening of the urethra isn’t found at the tip of the glans penis. It happens when the urethra forms abnormally during development in the uterus. It’s unknown what exactly causes this to occur.
People with hypospadias may experience abnormal spraying of urine when going to the bathroom, and may also have a curved penis. Hypospadias is relatively common — it’s estimated that
Cancer can also affect the glans penis. Symptoms of penile cancer can include:
- sores, lumps, or growths
- changes in skin color
- thickening of the skin
- abnormal discharge
Some risk factors for penile cancer have been identified. These include not being circumcised, having HPV, and having phimosis.
Treatments for conditions affecting the glans penis depend on the underlying cause. They can include:
- Antimicrobial medication: These are used to treat infections and can include antibiotics, antivirals, and antifungals.
- Steroid cream: Application of steroid cream may help with conditions like psoriasis, lichen sclerosis, and lichen planus.
- Cryoablation, electrocautery, or laser removal: These techniques, which involve freezing off warts, using electricity to heat tissue, and treating areas with laser therapy, can be used to remove genital warts or symptomatic angiokeratomas.
- Circumcision: Circumcision may be recommended in cases of recurring balanitis, phimosis, or paraphimosis.
- Surgery: Surgical techniques may be used for:
- penile cancer
- Radiation therapy or chemotherapy: Both radiation therapy and chemotherapy can be used in the treatment of penile cancer.
Plan to see your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms related to your glans penis that are new or concerning. These can include:
- redness or rash
- lesions, lumps, or sores
- painful urination
Your doctor can work with you to evaluate and treat your condition. In some cases, they may refer you to a urologist or dermatologist.
The glans penis is located at the end of the penis. It’s also referred to as the head or tip of the penis. Although often described as cone- or acorn-shaped, the exact appearance of the glans penis can vary by individual.
The glans penis is very sensitive, containing lots of nerve endings. Additionally, it also contains the opening of the urethra. When the penis is flaccid, urine can be released from the body through the urethra. Semen is released from the urethra during ejaculation.
Many conditions can affect the glans penis. These can include balanitis, infections, and psoriasis.
If you develop symptoms on or around your glans penis, such as pain, discharge, or unexplained lesions, make an appointment with your doctor. They can help diagnose your condition and recommend an appropriate treatment.