11 common causes of penis lumps and bumps

Medically reviewed by Dr Roger Henderson, Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa - MBBS MRCS(ed) DOHNS MRCGP PG Cert Aest
·6-min read
Photo credit: SensorSpot - Getty Images
Photo credit: SensorSpot - Getty Images

From Netdoctor

Lumps and bumps on the penis, including the shaft and nearby groin area, are normal. They can appear for a number of reasons, which are often easily treatable.

However, a penis lump may be caused by a sexually transmitted infection or an underlying condition, so it is always a good idea to seek expert advice quickly for a proper diagnosis.

Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa, director and GP at Your Doctor reveals 11 possible causes of lumps and bumps on the penis, and what to do about them:

Should I worry about penis lumps?

Whenever a new, unexplainable lump or bump appears on any part of our body, it’s best to get them checked by your GP. Changes to your penis can often make you feel very anxious, but there are all sorts of causes, some of which don’t require any treatment at all.

If you experience any of the following, then make an appointment to see your GP as soon as possible:

  • If you have one or more painless growths or lumps around your penis

  • Itching or bleeding

  • A change to your normal flow of wee

  • If you have had sexual contact with a partner you know has an STI or genital warts

Here are the 11 most common causes of lumps and bumps on the penis to look out for, and what to do about them:

1. Pearly penile papules (PPP)

These are small, flesh-coloured lumps, normally on the head of the penis. PPP may appear to be in one or two rows and go all the way around your penis head, but they are completely normal – they are not caused by bad hygiene and are not sexually transmitted.

PPP generally don’t have any other associated symptoms and don’t require any treatment, although a topical cream prescribed by your GP may help.

2. Fordyce spots

These are slightly enlarged oil glands and are present in 80 to 95 per cent of adults on various parts of the body. On the head or shaft of the penis they look like small yellowish or white spots and are completely normal, harmless and painless. They don’t need any treatment and never cause any long-term problems.

3. Genital warts

Genital warts are small, fleshy growths or bumps that can appear on the shaft and sometimes head of the penis, or under the foreskin. They’re caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Genital warts are typically larger and shaped a bit like cauliflowers, and can also develop in areas other than the penis, such as the scrotum or anus.

Genital warts can be treated with cream or liquid medication, or can be cut, burnt, frozen or lasered off. They may come back as there is no permanent cure for genital warts and it may take time for your body to clear the virus.

4. Lichen planus

This itchy rash comprises purple/red bumps that can affect many areas of the body, including the penis. Lichen planus is non-infectious and usually gets better on its own, although it may take up to around nine months in some cases. Creams and ointments from the GP can control the rash and ease itching, or if your symptoms are severe, light therapy or steroid tablets may help.

5. Lymphocele

This is a hard swelling that appears on the shaft of the penis after sex or masturbation, due to lymph channels that have become temporarily blocked. The swelling should quickly subside and won’t cause any permanent problems.

6. Herpes

This STI is caused by the herpes simplex virus, which could cause a painful blister or sore on your penis. It can be transmitted by saliva, body secretions or oral sex. Antiviral medicine may help shorten an outbreak by one or two days, if you start taking it as soon as symptoms appear.

The only way to protect yourself from STIs is to not have vaginal, anal or oral sex without a condom. Avoid having sex if you have any herpes symptoms.

7. Syphilis

This is another STI that causes a painless sore or ulcer on your penis. Syphilis is a bacterial infection and is usually caught by having sex with someone who’s infected.

It’s important to get tested and treated as soon as possible if you think you might have syphilis, because it won’t go away on its own, you may spread the infection to your partner, and it can cause serious problems, such as dementia, blindness and even death if left untreated. It can usually be cured with a short course of antibiotics.

8. Molluscum contagiosum

This is a contagious viral skin infection that causes small, firm, raised spots on the skin, often found in little clusters. It can occur anywhere on the body, but if found on the penis and general groin area, it can be considered an STI. It will heal on its own, but may take up to a year. Your GP may recommend treatment, such as laser therapy, in extreme circumstances.

9. Peyronie’s disease

This is fairly rare and causes a thickened area or hard lump in the shaft of the penis, which can cause the penis to become curved when erect. Most men with Peyronie’s disease can still have sex, but it can be painful and cause erectile dysfunction.

It is treatable - although the effectiveness of any treatment varies considerably - and may go away on its own. Many doctors prefer to wait to determine the severity of your symptoms before deciding whether to treat it.

10. Cancer of the penis

Penile cancer is rare, but can cause a sore or lump on the penis. Almost all penile cancers begin in the skin, with signs and symptoms including sores, redness, irritation, discharge, bleeding, or a lump on the penis.

The cause isn’t known, but risk factors include being a carrier of the HPV virus, smoking and having phimosis, which is when the foreskin is difficult to retract. Penile cancer is most common in men over 50 years old.

11. Blemishes

Cysts, pimples and ingrown hairs can occur on the penis, just as they can the rest of the body, causing lumps or pumps on the penis. These usually go away on their own within a few weeks. However, popped cysts and ingrown hairs may become infected and require antibiotics, so it is best to keep an eye on them.

Sexual health services

If you are worried about lumps on your penis or have any other sexual health concern, visit your GP or get a confidential opinion from your local sexual health clinic. Don’t be embarrassed, they are trained specialists who are used to dealing with sexual health concerns.

To visit a sexual health clinic you don’t need a referral letter from your GP, but we recommend contacting the clinic to find out their opening hours, and to check if you need an appointment.

Last updated: 20-10-2020

You Might Also Like