Pimples can develop anywhere you have pores. This means they can form anywhere on your body, including the penis.
Given the area’s sensitive nature, there are a few specific symptoms you should check for before attempting a self-diagnosis. Other bumps and lumps that occur around the penis could be something else entirely, and may require medical attention.
Read on to learn more about these types of pimples and whether the bumps could actually be a sign of something more serious.
A pimple occurs when a pore gets clogged. The end result depends on the materials that plug up the pore.
For example, oil and dead skin cells lead to blackheads and whiteheads. A mix of bacteria, oil, and cells can cause a pimple with or without a head.
Pimples may also:
- contain pus
- feel tender to the touch
- feel like a hardened bump
You may be at a higher risk for pimples in this area if you:
- skip showers
- live in a humid climate
- have oily skin
- shave your pubic hair
- wear tight-fitting bottoms, which can cause friction
Penile pimples can occur regardless of whether you’re sexually active. However, if you are sexually active, you’re at risk for signs of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that can look like pimples.
STDs can cause additional complications if left untreated, so if you’re unsure of your bumps, see your doctor for diagnosis.
The best way to treat pimples on your penis is to leave them alone. A hands-off approach will usually keep genital acne from worsening. The pimple is also likely to resolve on its own if the area is kept clean and dry.
As tempting as it may be, you should never pop penile pimples. This could make them worse and cause an infection. Popping can also make bacteria spread, possibly leading to even more pimples. If the bump persists, talk to your dermatologist about your options for drainage or removal.
You can’t treat a penile pimple with over-the-counter (OTC) medications like you can with pimples on other parts of your body. This is because your skin in this area is thinner and more sensitive. Common OTC acne products, such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, may be too harsh for this area. You could end up with a significant rash and itchiness as a result.
If you have an outbreak of pimples in the genital area, you might consider talking to your doctor about acne medications you can take orally. Antibiotics can help clear excessive bacteria that can contribute to acne breakouts, but these are only taken for a short period of time.
Isotretinoin (Accutane), a strong vitamin A derivative, is another option. This prescription medication is taken for severe acne (usually cystic nodular acne).
If the bump of concern doesn’t seem like an actual pimple, it could very well be linked to another condition. Some skin bumps are harmless and don’t need treatment. Others may be caused by an underlying condition and could warrant a visit to the doctor.
Here are some of the most common causes of pimple-like bumps. This isn’t a conclusive list, so be sure to follow up with your doctor.
Razor burns occur on recently shaved skin, resulting in redness and irritation. Minor cuts are also possible. As the affected skin heals, a combination of ingrown hairs and other pus-filled bumps may form along the rash.
Razor burn bumps tend to heal on their own. To soothe irritated skin, apply an oatmeal-based body lotion to the area. It’s also a good idea to apply this lotion every time you shave to prevent future irritation.
A Fordyce spot is a visible sebaceous gland. Sebaceous glands are usually located underneath hair follicles, but they’re visible on areas that don’t have hair — like the penis. The resulting spots are small and may be white or yellow.
You may be able to tell if you have Fordyce spots on your penis if you also have them inside your mouth. These spots most often form in clusters of between 50 and 100 at a time.
While harmless, sometimes Fordyce spots can cause aesthetic concerns. Certain dermatologic procedures can help, such as laser therapy. Isotretinoin is another option.
Tyson glands are visible sebaceous glands. These bumps form around the frenulum, or the small tissue folds underneath the penis.
The resulting spots are small and may be white or yellow. They’re considered harmless and don’t require treatment.
Hair follicle inflammation can lead to bumps near the base of pubic hair growth. The resulting red, pimple-like bumps are related to a condition known as folliculitis. These bumps may also be painful and itchy.
Folliculitis may resolve on its own without treatment. However, stubborn or recurring cases may require topical antimicrobials. This helps clear the existing bumps while preventing future inflammation.
Pearly penile papules
Papules, or hirsuties coronae glandis, are fleshy protrusions around the head of the penis. They are considered part of normal penile anatomy and aren’t related to acne. They do secrete oil that provides moisture to the penile head, however.
Lymphocele lumps may develop following sexual activity or masturbation. They’re characterized by swollen areas along the shaft from blocked lymph fluids.
These effects and resulting lumps are only temporary, though. You should see the symptoms resolve on their own without treatment.
A highly contagious viral infection, molluscum contagiosum causes clusters of raised bumps. Some of these bumps may have red halo-like rings around them. They can affect the penis and the surrounding area.
This infection is transmitted through sexual intercourse, but is easily treated when detected early. Your doctor may recommend cryotherapy to prevent its spread.
Syphilis is another serious infection transmitted via sexual contact. The resulting red bumps that become ulcers are often the first and only sign of this bacterial infection.
Syphilis infections on the penis can go away on their own and come back years later. However, you can still spread the infection to others during this time.
Antibiotics are needed to treat syphilis. If left untreated, severe cases can result in organ damage and neurological problems.
A genital wart appears in the form of a flesh-colored bump. In men, they usually occur along the shaft of the penis. Some outbreaks look like pieces of cauliflower on the skin.
Although genital warts aren’t cancerous, those caused by HPV could mean you’re at risk of developing cancer of the penis in the future. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to prevent the spread of infection and reduce your risk for complications.
Often pimples on the penis clear up without any further complications. But if improved hygiene and other measures haven’t had an effect, see your doctor for diagnosis.
You should also see your doctor if you experience:
- oozing pus
- widespread rash
- bumps that change in size, shape, or texture
These may be signs of infection or another underlying condition. Your doctor can diagnose your symptoms and help develop a care plan specific to your needs.