Penis Lump: Causes and Treatments

Male person meets with doctor for penile symptoms

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There are plenty of reasons that a person might have a lump on their penis. Most of them are not much to worry about. As on other areas of your body, you can get pimples and other benign bumps that aren't contagious or likely to spread.

However, there are also types of lumps on your penis that do require seeing a doctor. For example, several different sexually transmitted infections can cause a lump on the penis. This article will discuss common contagious and noncontagious causes, as well as less common causes.

Common Noncontagious Causes

Most of the lumps and bumps people have on their penis are not contagious and don't need treatment. The most common noncontagious, benign penis growths include cysts, pearly papules, and Fordyce spots.

In general, the common noncontagious types of lumps people have on their penis don't need treatment. They may be the same as pimples and growths on other areas of skin and go away on their own.

Or they may be normal anatomic variations. In other words, people's bodies are all different. Bumps on the penis can be another type of normal.

Cysts

Cysts on the penis are generally epidermoid cysts. These are harmless lesions filled with keratin debris. Keratin is a fibrous protein found in hair, nails, and skin.

These cysts generally appear as small white or yellow bumps on the penile skin. Penile cysts are one of the most common causes of bumps on the penis.

Penile cysts do not require treatment. However, if they are bothersome, a doctor can drain the keratin out of the cyst in the office. Occasionally, cysts may become red or inflamed, like an irritated pimple. If that happens, you should talk to a doctor.

Fordyce Spots

Fordyce spots are small raised bumps that are made up of sebaceous (oil-producing) glands. While most sebaceous glands are associated with a hair follicle, Fordyce spots open directly out onto the skin. These bumps are generally pale white or yellow and they are most often found on the:

  • Border of the lip and face
  • Penis
  • Labia
  • Inside of the cheeks

Fordyce spots are not contagious. They are generally not associated with any symptoms, although sometimes they itch. Fordyce spots do not require treatment. While some people may want to treat them for cosmetic reasons, there is a risk that scarring could occur.

Fordyce spots look similar enough to other causes of lumps on the penis that a doctor is required for diagnosis.

Moles

A mole is a pigmented area of skin. It occurs when the cells that make pigment, melanocytes, form a cluster on the skin. Moles may be slightly raised and may contain hair. They are generally present from birth. Moles on the penis aren't particularly common, but they can happen.

If you have a mole on your penis that changes shape or color, it is important to see a doctor. That's also true if the mole suddenly becomes itchy or sore. In rare cases, a mole can turn into a form of skin cancer called melanoma.

Pearly Papules

Pearly penile papules are exactly what they sound like—small bumps around the rim of the head of the penis. They may be white, yellow, or skin-colored and are not associated with pain or itching. They are not infectious or associated with any long-term problems.

Pearly papules do not need treatment, and there is a risk of scarring with most forms of treatment. They are a normal anatomic variant and occur in between 14% and 48% of people with a penis. In most people, they appear for the first time in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Pimple

A pimple on the penis occurs for the same reasons as pimples on other areas of the skin: A pore has become blocked. If that's all that occurs, the pimple may just appear as a small bump that goes away on its own. If it becomes infected with bacteria, it may become red and inflamed.

You never want to pick at or squeeze a lump or bump on your penis. When you do, there's a risk of spreading it to other areas of the body or ending up with a secondary infection.

Most pimples will go away on their own in a few days to a few weeks. If they don't, it may be worth talking to your doctor to make certain what you have is a pimple and not a symptom of another condition.

Lymphocele

Lymphoceles feel like cords underneath the skin of the penis. They can be vertical or horizontal. Most of the time lymphoceles are associated with friction, such as from sexual activity. They usually occur because of swelling after damage to a blood vessel.

Although lymphoceles usually heal on their own, they can be associated with certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Therefore, if you have a lymphocele after unprotected sex, STI screening may be indicated.

Tyson Glands

Tyson glands are ectopic sebaceous glands. In other words, they are small sebaceous glands occurring in an unusual position. Tyson glands appear as raised whitish bumps, generally on either side of the frenulum—the ridge of tissue under the glans.

Tyson glands are normal and do not require treatment. They usually appear in pairs.

Common Contagious Causes of Penis Lumps

Sexually active people may be at risk of various sexually transmitted infections that can cause lumps or bumps on the penis. Although using a condom greatly reduces the risk of these STIs, it may not prevent them entirely. This is because most STIs that cause lumps on the penis are spread by skin-to-skin contact. Therefore, skin not covered by a condom may be at risk.

Genital Warts

Genital warts are caused by infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). They appear as one or more soft, fleshy bumps that are raised from the skin. On the penis, these bumps may be flatter than on other areas of the genitalia.

Genital warts are a common sexually transmitted infection. The risk of genital warts can be significantly reduced through HPV vaccination. Genital warts may be left to heal on their own or removed with cryotherapy or other techniques. People should not attempt to treat genital warts on their own.

Did You Know?

The types of HPV that cause genital warts are generally different than the ones that cause penis cancer and other forms of cancer.

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes infection is caused by either herpes simplex virus (HSV) 1 or 2. It is quite common in sexually active adults. It can be transmitted by oral sex, vaginal sex, and other forms of skin-to-skin contact. Using barriers during all types of penetrative sex can significantly reduce the risk of sexual transmission of herpes.

Most people who are infected with genital herpes have no symptoms. Where people do have symptoms, they take the form of one or more blisters that rupture into painful ulcers. These ulcers generally heal within a few weeks. Blisters may come back, but outbreaks usually get less intense over time.

Herpes cannot be cured, but it can be treated with antiviral medication. Antiviral medication can shorten outbreaks and reduce the risk of transmission to a partner.

Diagnosis of herpes requires testing by a physician. There are blood tests available to detect a history of herpes infection, but sampling of lesions is considered to be more accurate.

Syphilis

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection. Although cases had been declining for many decades, they have recently once again been on the rise—possibly due to unrecognized transmission during oral sex.

Primary syphilis infection, or new infection, appears as firm, round, painless sores. These sores may appear similar to other types of lumps on the penis.

Secondary syphilis generally appears as a rough, raised rash that may be associated with some discomfort and can also be mistaken for genital warts. Diagnosis is generally made by a blood test. Treatment is with antibiotics.

Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a highly infectious viral condition that spreads by skin-to-skin contact. It can be sexually transmitted as well as transmitted by more casual contact. Molluscum contagiosum appears as a small white or skin-colored bump, with an indentation in the center.

Molluscum contagiosum does not always require treatment. It may resolve on its own over a period of six to 12 months. However, when these bumps appear on the genitals, treatment is generally recommended. Treatment requires physical removal of the bumps, usually under anesthesia.

People with molluscum contagiosum should not try to treat or remove the bumps themselves. This can cause the infection to spread. It may also lead to a painful skin infection that requires treatment with antibiotics.

 

Uncommon Causes of Penis Lumps

Angiokeratomas

Angiokeratomas are benign lesions caused by abnormally dilated blood vessels in the top layer of the skin. They generally appear as red, purple, blue, or black bumps. Most commonly, these bumps are seen on the corona—the ring around the head of the penis.

Although angiokeratomas do not need treatment, they can look similar to melanoma. Therefore, they may require a diagnosis. If someone has many angiokeratomas, particularly close together, they can be treated with laser surgery. However, treatment is not required.

Peyronie’s Disease

Peyronie's disease is a condition in which abnormal scarring occurs (called plaque) as a result of inflammation in the erectile tissues of the penis. It is often the result of unnoticed small injuries to the penis.

The most common symptom of Peyronie's disease is penile curvature. However, in rare cases, the associated scarring can also appear as lumps or bumps on the penis.

Peyronie's disease does not require treatment unless it is causing discomfort or making it difficult to engage in sex.

Scabies

Scabies is a skin infection caused by a mite. It appears as an extremely itchy rash that may seem to be made up of numerous small pimples. The scabies rash may also include blisters and scaling of the skin.

Scabies can be diagnosed either by appearance or by examining a scraping of skin under a microscope. It is treated with topical medications known as scabicides. Treatment is only by prescription.

Penile Cancer

Penile cancer is very rare in the United States. As with other types of cancer, it is caused by abnormal cell growth. Early symptoms of penile cancer may include small tender areas or growths on the penis. They may be similar in appearance to genital warts.

In order to diagnose penile cancer, a growth must be removed and a biopsy examined by the doctor. Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer, but usually involves removal of the affected area of the tissue. 

When to See a Doctor

It's important to see a doctor if you have a new lump or bump, or any other changes, on your penis and you are sexually active. This is particularly true if you do not consistently practice safer sex and/or if you have recently started having sex with a new partner.

While the most common causes of bumps on the penis are not contagious, new lumps on the penis should be investigated for anyone at risk of sexually transmitted infections.

Other symptoms that indicate you might need to see a doctor include:

  • Pain during sex
  • Open sores
  • Pain during urination
  • Needing to urinate more often
  • Changes in penile discharge

In addition, if you have any bumps or sores on your penis, you may want to abstain from sex until they are diagnosed. If you can't, you should make certain to use a condom appropriately and inform your sexual partners about your concern.

Summary

A lump on the penis is usually due to one of several benign noncontagious causes or to various contagious infections. A new or changing lump should be checked by a doctor, especially if you are sexually active. Treatment may be needed.

A Word From Verywell

Most of the time, a lump on the penis isn't a big deal. Humans get all sorts of lumps and bumps on all areas of their skin. Most of them are benign and not contagious. They will often heal or go away on their own.

However, for sexually active people, any new lumps or skin changes should be discussed with a doctor. That way they can test you for sexually transmitted infection. That reduces both your risk of any complications or long-term problems and the likelihood that you will transmit an infection to a sexual partner.

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