Penile Papules: The Harmless Bumps Many Teen Boys Get

Have you ever noticed tiny bumps on your penis and wondered what they are? If so, you likely have penile papules – a common and harmless skin condition that more teen boys experience than you may realize. This article will cover everything you need to know about these little bumps, from what causes them and who gets them to whether you should be concerned or try to remove them.

What Are Penile Papules?

Penile papules are small, soft bumps that form on the head (glans) of the penis. Despite how alarming they may look, penile papules are actually benign skin growths. The papules arranged symmetrically, appearing either dome-shaped or threadlike. They usually measure about 2 millimeters wide and 4 millimeters long. While generally skin-toned, penile papules may also present yellow, pink, or even a pearly white color – which is why they are sometimes called “pearly penile papules.”

Where Are Penile Papules Located?

As the name implies, penile papules are found exclusively on the penis. Specifically, they occur on the corona (ridge) of the glans. The bumps may form a single row encircling the head of the penis. Or, there may be multiple rows of them. If growths are present anywhere else besides the glans of the penis, it is not penile papules.

What Percentage of Men Have Them?

Penile papules are far more prevalent than most guys realize. Studies indicate between 14% to 48% of males will develop papules at some point during their lifetime. Since we rarely discuss them, many boys are shocked to discover these common bumps on their penis. But rest assured – you are not alone. Up to 43% of men deal with the same harmless skin condition.

Are Penile Papules Contagious or Spreadable?

Despite their appearance, penile papules cannot be spread either to other areas of your body or to sexual partners. You cannot “catch” the bumps, and they pose no risk of transmission during unprotected sex. The pearly penile papules will remain isolated growths on the glans of your penis.

Are They STDs?

One common misconception is that penile papules are sexually transmitted diseases. However, this is not the case. STDs like genital warts have a very distinct appearance – bumpy with an irregular, cauliflower-like shape. By contrast, penile papules are smooth, symmetrical skin growths. While the confusion is understandable, rest assured these are benign bumps not caused by any STD.

Can The Bumps Become Cancerous?

Unlike some other skin growths (e.g. moles), there is no danger of penile papules becoming malignant. The papules consist of normal skin cells that will not transform into anything harmful like cancer. Guys can take comfort knowing these are harmless bumps rather than precancerous lesions needing frequent monitoring.

What Causes Penile Papules?

Researchers don’t fully understand what triggers penile papules to appear. However, several contributing factors have been identified:

  • Excess collagen in the skin
  • Overgrowth of dilated blood vessels
  • Overproduction of fibroblasts (connective tissue cells)

In most cases, the underlying cause is likely a combination of skin, vascular, and cellular factors all coinciding together. But whatever the origin, the bumps themselves are harmless.

Should You Try to Pop Them?

While the dome-shaped bumps may resemble pimples with what looks like a whitehead tip, penile papules should never be popped or squeezed. Attempting to rupture them risks causing irritation, infection, scarring, and other damage to the sensitive penile tissue. Rather than poking at the bumps, it’s best just to leave them alone.

Can Penile Papules Be Removed?

Despite being totally harmless, some guys find that penile papules cause self-consciousness or embarrass them with sexual partners. In these cases, various treatment options exist to remove the bumps, including:

  • Cryotherapy (freezing them off)
  • CO2 laser therapy
  • Electrosurgery

However, these removal techniques can be quite painful given the sensitive penile skin. And in some cases, the papules may recur even after treatment. So before attempting removal, consider whether these harmless bumps are truly bothering you or simply causing unnecessary distress.

Will They Go Away On Their Own?

Anecdotal reports indicate that penile papules often fade and disappear as a man ages. For reasons not fully understood, the bumps seem to naturally subside over time without any intervention in many males. So while the skin growths may be distressing during the teen years, take comfort that they tend to resolve on their own the older you get.

When To See A Doctor

Discovering any unusual bumps or skin changes on your penis can be unsettling. But rest assured that penile papules are normal and harmless. Still, if you have any concerns about spots on your genitals, discuss them with a doctor. Getting an expert medical opinion can provide reassurance that your penis is healthy or diagnose any actual conditions needing treatment.

The Takeaway

Penile papules are common, harmless bumps that occur in many boys and men. While they may be upsetting to deal with during adolescence, take comfort that you are not alone. Up to 43% of guys develop these too. And in most cases, the bumps will fade over time without needing any removal procedures. So try not to let them affect your confidence or cause undue distress. With the right information, most teens realize that penile papules are normal and nothing to worry about long-term.