Bump on Penis: Causes and Treatment

There are plenty of reasons that a person might have a bump on their penis. Most are not much to worry about. As with other parts of your body, you can get pimples, ingrown hairs, and other relatively harmless lumps or bumps on the head, shaft, or foreskin of the penis. In fact, conditions like these are quite common.

However, certain bumps do require examination by a healthcare provider. These include warts and lesions caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can be very contagious. Other non-contagious bumps may also be serious, including those caused by Peyronie's disease and, on rare occasions, penile cancer.

Even relatively harmless bumps, including pimples and cysts, may require treatment if they are unsightly or become infected if you pick at them or try to pop them.

This article looks at 13 non-contagious and contagious causes of bumps on the penis, including the signs and symptoms that warrant a visit with your healthcare provider.

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Common Non-Contagious Causes

Most of the lumps and bumps that people have on their penis are not contagious and don't need treatment. These include benign (non-cancerous) growths like cysts, pearly papules, and Fordyce spots.

Penile Cysts

Penile cysts are one of the most common causes of bumps on the penis.

Chief among these are harmless epidermoid cysts that develop when the opening of a hair follicle becomes blocked with debris, including keratin (a fibrous protein found in hair and skin). Epidermoid cysts generally appear as small white or yellow bumps on the skin of the penis.

An ingrown hair can also cause a cyst by plugging the opening of a follicle. These are larger than a pimple and may be white, yellow, or reddish. The cysts are common in people who shave the hair on their penis, particularly if the pubic hair is curly.

Epidermoid cysts do not require treatment but may be removed for cosmetic reasons or if they become infected.

By contrast, ingrown hairs tend to become inflamed and infected with repeated shavings. In such cases, a healthcare provider may need to safely extract the hair.

Fordyce Spots

Fordyce spots are small raised bumps caused by enlarged oil-producing glands called sebaceous glands. While most sebaceous glands open into a hair follicle, Fordyce spots open directly onto the skin. Those that occur on the foreskin are referred to as Tyson's glands.

Fordyce spots are generally pale white or yellow and can be found on the penis, labia, border of the lip, and inside of the cheeks.

Fordyce spots and Tyson's glands are not contagious and generally do not causes symptoms other than maybe mild itching. They do not require treatment. While some people may want to remove them for cosmetic reasons, there is a risk of scarring.

Moles (Nevi)

A mole, also called a nevus, is a pigmented skin area. It occurs when skin cells known as melanocytes secrete excessive amounts of a brownish pigment known as melanin, resulting in a slightly raised, colored lump.

Moles are usually present from birth. They aren't particularly common on the penis but can occur.

If you have a mole that changes shape or color, it is important to see a healthcare provider. In rare cases, a mole can become a form of skin cancer called melanoma.

Pearly Papules

Pearly papules are small bumps that occur around the corona (the rim of the head of the penis). They may be white, yellow, or skin-colored and do not cause symptoms. The papules are not infectious or associated with any long-term health concerns. For most people, pearly papules appear during late adolescence or early adulthood.

Pearly papules do not need treatment, and there is a risk of scarring if you try to remove them. They are considered normal and occur in between 14% and 48% of people with a penis.

Pimples

A pimple on the penis occurs for the same reasons as pimples on other body parts. It occurs when a hair follicle becomes plugged with oil and dead skin cells. If infected with bacteria, a pimple can become red, inflamed, and filled with pus.

Most pimples will go away on their own in a few days or weeks. If they don't, speak with your healthcare provider to ensure you are dealing with pimples and not some other potentially serious skin condition.

Common Contagious Causes of Penis Lumps

Sexually active people may be at risk of STIs that can cause lumps or bumps on the penis.

Although a condom can greatly reduce the risk of 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 typically appear as soft, fleshy bumps on the genital or anus. On the penis, the bumps are often flatter.

Genital warts are one of the most common STIs. The risk can be greatly reduced through HPV vaccination.

Genital warts will often resolve on their own over time. They can also be removed with cryotherapy (using super-cold temperatures) or other in-office techniques. People should not attempt to treat genital warts on their own.

Do Genital Warts Cause Cancer?

Genital warts rarely lead to cancer. This is because the types of HPV that cause genital warts differ from those that cause penile cancer, cervical cancer, and other forms of cancer.

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a common STI caused by either herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 or 2. It can be transmitted by oral sex, vaginal sex, and other forms of skin-to-skin contact. Using barrier protection, such as condoms, can significantly reduce the risk.

Most people infected with genital herpes have no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they typically cause a cluster of tiny blisters that rupture into painful ulcers. These ulcers generally heal within a few weeks, although recurrent outbreaks are common.

Herpes cannot be cured but can be treated with antiviral medications that can shorten outbreaks and reduce the risk of transmission to a sexual partner.

Syphilis

Syphilis is an STI caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum. During the first (primary) stage of infection, syphilis causes a firm, round, painless ulcer called a chancre, most often on the head or foreskin of the penis. It is not uncommon to have only one sore, but more than one can sometimes occur.

The risk of syphilis can be reduced by using condoms and reducing your number of sex partners. The treatment of syphilis usually involves a single intramuscular injection of penicillin, typically into the large muscle of the upper buttocks.

Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a highly contagious viral infection spread through skin-to-skin contact. It can be transmitted sexually as well as by 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. If the bumps appear on the genitals, treatment is generally recommended, either with topical medications or procedures like cryotherapy or laser therapy.

Uncommon Causes of Penis Bumps

There are less common causes of penis bumps, ranging from non-serious bumps called angiokeratomas to serious ones like cancer.

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 of the penis.

Although angiokeratomas do not need treatment, they are similar in appearance to melanoma and should be looked at by a healthcare provider just in case.

If someone has multiple angiokeratomas, particularly those clustered closely together, they can be removed with laser surgery for cosmetic purposes.

Peyronie’s Disease

Peyronie's disease (PD) is a condition generally affecting older males that causes an abnormal curve of the penis. PD occurs when scar tissues, called plaques, develop on the thick membrane surrounding the inner core of the penis shaft.

The plaques essentially "cinch in" the membrane, causing the penis to bend abnormally during an erection. A hardened lesion can often be felt and seen at the junction of the bend. In some cases, the lesions can appear as hardened bumps.

Peyronie's disease does not require treatment if it does not cause pain or affect sexual function. If it does, an injectable drug called Xiaflex (collagenase clostridium) can help dissolve the plaque. If erectile dysfunction (ED) occurs, ED medications like Viagra (sildenafil) can be prescribed.

Scabies

Scabies is a skin infection caused by a mite that burrows beneath the surface of the skin. It causes an extremely itchy rash with numerous tiny pimples. There may also be blistering and scaling of the skin.

Scabies on the penis and scrotum is not uncommon. It can also affect the groin, buttocks, and waistline as well as the wrists, elbows, armpits, nipples, and webbing between the fingers.

Scabies is usually spread by direct and prolonged skin-to-skin contact with someone who has scabies. It is treated with topical medications known as scabicides, available by prescription only.

Penile Cancer

Penile cancer is very rare in the United States. Early symptoms include areas of tender, flaking skin or abnormal growths on the penis. The growth can look like genital warts or small, blister-like bumps.

To diagnose penile cancer, the growth must be removed with a biopsy and examined by a lab pathologist. Treatment depends on the cancer stage, but usually involves the removal of the affected tissue. 

Incidence of Penile Cancer

Around 2,000 cases of penile cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. It is a relatively rare cancer accounting for less than 1% of cancers overall.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

It's important to see a healthcare provider if you have a new lump or bump—or any other changes—on your penis. 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 sexually active.

You should also see a healthcare provider if you have other symptoms, such as:

  • Pain during sex
  • Open sores (particularly sores that do not heal)
  • Pain during urination
  • Needing to urinate more often
  • A mole that changes in color or shape

You should also abstain from sex until they are diagnosed. If you can't, use a condom and inform your sexual partners about your concern.

Summary

A bump or lump on the penis may be due to non-contagious causes such as pimples or cysts or to contagious causes such as a sexually transmitted infection (ST!).

Most causes are benign (non-cancerous), and many do not require treatment. On rare occasions, a bump or lump may be caused by penile cancer, the condition of which requires immediate treatment.

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 healthcare provider. 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.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, MPH, CHES, is a social worker, adjunct lecturer, and expert writer in the field of sexually transmitted diseases.