What Is That Bump on My Penis?

Non-Infectious and Infectious Causes

If you notice a rash or spot on your penis, your mind may go straight to the worst-case scenario. Penile cancer or a sexually transmitted infection (STI) may be the first things you think of.

Most of the time, an abnormal spot or bump on your penis is not serious. Still, it is important to see your healthcare provider. Here are some of the causes your healthcare provider may look for.

This article discusses some of the causes of rashes and spots on the penis, including infectious and non-infectious conditions.

causes of penile rash
Verywell / Emily Roberts

Non-Infectious Causes of Spots on the Penis

Non-infectious means you cannot get the condition from someone else or pass it on. These conditions tend to be less serious. Still, you should not ignore your condition just because it is non-infectious.

Any of these conditions can lead to scarring of the penis. There may be redness, skin cracks, and tender, sore areas.

Uncircumcised penises are more prone to scarring. The scarring may make it difficult to retract the foreskin. This is a condition known as phimosis.

Inflamed Hair Follicles

A hair follicle is the bulb-shaped structure in the skin that hair grows from. Inflamed hair follicles, also called folliculitis, look like tiny bumps. The may appear beneath the skin of the scrotum or base of the penis shaft. They can be irritating, but are not usually harmful.

This condition can have a number of causes, including:

  • Harsh chemicals, such as the fragrances in laundry detergent
  • Abrasion, such as from clothes that rub against your skin
  • An allergy your healthcare provider can help identify

Pearly Penile Papules

Dome-shaped or jagged bumps that appear around the head, or glans, of the penis may be angiofibromas. These are also known as pearly penile papules.

These bumps are more common on uncircumcised penises. They are not infectious and they do not require treatment. If they are large, they can be removed for cosmetic reasons.

Angiokeratomas

Angiokeratomas are small red or blue spots. They may appear only on the glans or extend to the scrotum, groin, and thighs. The spots are not infectious and do not need to be treated.

Sometimes these spots can cause pain or bleeding. When this happens, they can be treated with laser therapy. Electrodesiccation, a procedure that involves scraping or burning the spots, may also be used.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a non-infectious skin disorder. It can appear anywhere on the body. On the penis, it may appear as a red or salmon-colored patch with white or silvery scales.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder. When you have psoriasis, your immune system attacks skin cells on different parts of your body.

Psoriasis can often be treated with topical corticosteroids. These medicines are applied on the skin and prevent your immune system from attacking your skin. Oral medications may also help.

Lichen Sclerosus 

Lichen sclerosus is a common skin condition. About one in 300 males will develop this condition at some point in their lives.

Lichen sclerosus causes a crinkled, whitish lesion, usually around or under the glans. The cause is unknown but it is thought to be triggered by an overactive immune system.

The lesions are often itchy. They may also lead to painful erections or painful or difficult urination.

These lesions can often be treated with topical corticosteroids. Large lesions or those that do not respond to treatment may need to be removed surgically.

Lichen sclerosus is linked to a 4% to 5% percent risk of cancer. Lesions that do not go away should be monitored.

Lichen Planus

Lichen planus is a rare skin condition. It is characterized by raised, flat, violet-colored bumps on the glans of the penis. The bumps sometimes have fine white streaks and a smooth surface.

The lesions often appear in a ring or a line. They may or may not be itchy.

Lichen planus can affect other parts of the body, including:

  • Wrists
  • Shins
  • Inside the cheeks

The condition is not infectious. The lesions can usually be treated with topical corticosteroids.

It is not known why, but lichen planus affects people with hepatitis C five times more often than people without it.

Eczema

Eczema is a chronic skin condition. People with eczema have itchy, red, dry, and cracked skin. Eczema flare-ups can happen anywhere on the body.

Eczema is usually caused by an overactive immune system. It can be treated with topical corticosteroids. Prescription medication can also help.

Lifestyle changes can help you avoid eczema outbreaks. Wear loose-fitting clothing and avoid harsh chemicals.

Recap

Non-infectious causes of spots on the penis are usually less serious. Still, they should be seen by a healthcare provider. Many of these conditions can be treated with topical corticosteroids or prescription medication.

Infectious Causes of Spots on the Penis 

Infectious conditions are conditions that can be passed on to others. Infectious conditions of the penis are usually sexually transmitted. These diseases may require medical help.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a highly contagious sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is also known as genital warts.

HPV is passed through vaginal sex, anal sex, and oral sex. It can also be passed through skin-to-skin sexual contact, such as mutual masturbation.

In males, HPV warts can develop in the following places:

  • On the penis
  • Around the anus
  • In the throat
  • Inside the rectum

In most cases, an HPV infection will resolve on its own. In a small subset of people, the wart may develop into cancer. Some strains of HPV are more likely to cause cancer than others.

Topical solutions can work to gradually remove the wart. A healthcare provider can also cut away, freeze, or burn the wart.

Gay or bisexual men with HPV are at an increased risk of cancer. People in this group who have genital warts or have had them in the past should consider an anal Pap smear to test for cancer.

Primary Syphilis

Syphilis is an STI. It can be contracted by coming into contact with a syphilitic sore during sex.

The sore is typically a circular lesion that does not cause pain. It is usually ulcerative, which means there is a loss of surface tissue.

You may be able to see the sore on the penis or around the anus. Unseen sores may also develop in the rectum, mouth, or throat.

The sore is the first symptom of primary, or first-stage syphilis. If left untreated, it can progress to more serious forms called secondary and tertiary syphilis. This may take months or years.

Syphilis may be diagnosed with a blood test. A biopsy, a procedure that takes a small sample of the lesion, can also be used to diagnose the disease.

Syphilis can be treated with a single dose of benzathine penicillin, an antibiotic. The medication is injected into a muscle, usually the buttocks.

If syphilis spreads it can cause long-term damage to the body. In later stages it may even affect the nervous system. If you are diagnosed with syphilis, it is important to get treatment right away.

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is an STI caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV-1 causes cold sores. HSV-2 causes genital herpes.

The infection triggers the development of small blisters. These blisters break open into painful sores. The first herpes episode often causes severe pain and flu-like symptoms. Later episodes tend to be milder.

Herpes can be transmitted during the prodrome phase and the active phase. The prodrome phase happens just before an outbreak. This phase is characterized by burning, tingling, or itching. During the active phase, blisters are present.

In some cases, contact with a cold sore during oral sex can cause genital herpes. There is also evidence that herpes can be transmitted by people who do not have symptoms. It is always best to use a condom to avoid transmission. 

Herpes cannot be cured. Antiviral medications may reduce the risk of recurrence. They may also make active outbreaks less severe.

Certain external factors like stress can also increase the risk of recurrence. If you have active herpes sores, it is important to avoid sex until the blisters are completely healed.

Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a common viral disease. It can appear anywhere on the body, including the penis. It is easily passed through sexual contact or other types of direct skin-to-skin contact.

Transmission may also happen when you share towels, clothess, gym mats, and personal care items. People with weakened immune systems, such as those with advanced HIV, are especially prone to infection.

Molluscum contagiosum appears as firm, dome-shaped bumps with a dimple in the middle. They are usually flesh-colored. They can appear on the genitals and inner thighs but are also common on the face, neck, armpits, arms, hands, and abdomen. 

The bumps are usually painless. They may itch and turn a bright red color when scratched.

The infection usually goes away on its own, but it may take a long time. The bumps usually disappear in six to 12 months, but may last as long as four years.

Some people choose to have the bumps removed for cosmetic reasons. Removing them also reduces the risk of transmission. Topical creams containing retinoids can sometimes help.

Recap

Most infectious causes of spots on the penis are sexually transmitted. These conditions usually require treatment. See your healthcare provider right away to avoid long-term problems and prevent spreading them to someone else.

Penile Cancer

Penile cancer is a much less common cause of lesions on the penis. Penile cancer affects only around 2,200 Americans a year.

The early or precancerous stage is called penile carcinoma in situ. In this stage the lesion is often red and raised with a velvety texture.

Almost 95% of all penile cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. These tumors grow slowly. They usually appear as flat skin lesions on the glans or foreskin.

Verrucous carcinoma is a less common type of squamous cell carcinoma. It is also slow growing and can look like a large wart.

Penile melanoma is the most dangerous type. It develops rapidly. Lesions are purplish, brown, or black.

With early treatment most penile cancers can be cured. Delaying treatment can be dangerous. As the cancer grows, more aggressive treatment may be needed. This may include the partial or complete removal of the penis.

Summary

There are many possible causes of a rash or growth on the penis. Non-infectious conditions are usually less serious. These conditions can often be treated surgically or with topical corticosteroids.

Infectious conditions usually require treatment. Most infectious conditions are sexually transmitted. They may need to be treated with antibiotics. Some may need to be removed by a healthcare provider.

In rare cases, a lesion on the penis may be cancerous. When treated early, most penile cancers can be cured. This is why it is important to see a healthcare provider for any unusual spot, bump, or rash on the penis.

A Word From Verywell

These are only a few of the possible causes of a rash or growth on the penis. That is why self-diagnosis is never a good idea. Early medical care can prevent serious problems. It will also reduce the risk of transmitting infections to others.

If the thought of discussing your penis with your healthcare provider makes you uneasy, it can be helpful to call first. Do not wait to seek treatment. Embarrassment should never come between you and a diagnosis.

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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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