Finding a bump or pimple on the penis can be very concerning if not terrifying. There are many causes for both bumps and pimples on the penis. Often they are a symptom of an STD, but there are many non-STD related reasons for having pimples on the penis as well.
In this segment, STDAware presents the most common causes for pimples on the penis. More specifically, the various signs and symptoms associated with benign, non-STD related pimples on the penis as well as the ones that are STD related and could have severely damaging effects to an individual’s health and longevity.
What To Do If You Find A Pimple On Your Penis
While tempting, it is important NEVER to pop or squeeze pimples found on the penis. Popping or squeezing can increase the inflammation, worsen and spread the infection, as well as lead to possible scarring. A pimple and surrounding area should be kept thoroughly clean and dried. Avoid using any harsh soaps or scrubbing too hard, since the skin in this region is sensitive and could quickly become irritated. It is important to monitor them, and observe if they spread, grow or do not go away over a period time (indicating that there is a deeper infection).
Skin problems such as pimples are common with many people. Most common areas to have pimples are the face, neck, back, and shoulders but sometimes will extend to the skin of the buttocks, inner thigh, groin, and around the genital area.
Traditionally, a pimple occurs when bacteria is found on the skin and has infected the area, forming a pus-filled red or white bump. There are times that pimples form because of non-cleanliness factors or other non-STD related reasons. However, it is important to note that pimples found on the penis are a significant indicator of an STD even in the absence of any other obvious signs or symptoms.
Non-STD related causes for pimples on the penis are:
- Poor Hygiene: Not maintaining proper hygiene can cause breakouts (pimples) anywhere on the body including the penis and scrotum. With proper washing and care, any breakout should subside within a few days.
- Folliculitis: This condition exists when a hair follicle is infected and creates an inflamed pimple around the hair shaft. Folliculitis pimples are typically purplish or yellow and are a result of oil glands that have been clogged. They will go away within a few days without any treatment.
- Razor Burn: These are bumps that arise after shaving due to infected or ingrown hairs. This rash will go away within a few days, without any treatment.
- Staph Infection: This is a rash or pimple caused by staph bacteria. It is rare, but the virus can spread to open cuts and other areas. It is not classified as an STD but is contagious. Treatment with medicine is necessary for a staph infection.
- Papiloma hirsutoide also known as Penile Papules: These are small, benign, harmless growths, which vary in size and color between individuals, but all the papules on a specific individual will look the same. They are usually found in rings just above the shaft, around the base of the "head" of the penis. They are harmless and not contagious. While they do not present any health risk and can be left alone, they are often treated for cosmetic reasons.
- Sebaceous Cyst/Sebum Cyst: These are small noncancerous bumps that can appear anywhere on the skin but are most common on the face, neck, and trunk. They arise around the sebaceous glands, which produce sebum, the oil that lubricates the hair and skin. They are harmless but can cause discomfort and itching.
- Other Skin Cysts: These are nodules or soft, pus-filled bumps that occur on the skin from blocked pores and will typically resolve on their own but can be painful.
- Fordyce Spots: These are white, yellowish or red bumps, which occur on the edge of the lips, inside of checks, or on the penis or scrotum. They are enlarged oil glands where there is no hair attached. While their appearance can be concerning, they are harmless and noncontagious. They do not require treatment but may be addressed for cosmetic purposes.
While there are many non-STD related conditions resulting in bumps and pimples on the penis the only way to know if you have an STD is to get tested. If you have a bump or a pimple on your penis and it does not go away, or changes in size or color, it is highly recommended that you get tested for STDs.
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STD related causes for pimples on the penis:
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are diseases transferred most commonly through sexual activity (vaginal, anal, oral, manual sex), but can also be transmitted via intravenous drug use and are sometimes passed from mother to infant during childbirth. Different STDs have varying methods of transmission and are highly contagious.
While STDs very often have no signs or symptoms, they may also have a wide variety of symptoms. One of the main symptoms of an STD in males is the presence of bumps or pimples on the penis.
- HPV (Human Papilloma Virus): HPV is a group of low and high-risk viruses that comprises more than 150 strains. The low-risk strains may result in genital warts, while the higher risk strains can lead to cancers of the anus, throat, and penis (in women can lead to cervical and uterine cancer). HPV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, oral, anal, and vaginal sex. Skin that is abraded or cut is especially susceptible to HPV infection. Mucus membranes of the penis, vagina, anus, throat, mouth, and eyes, are made up of several layers of thin skin and therefore most commonly at risk. Transmission of warts from the hands to the genitals is possible. Genital warts cannot be cured, but treatment is available to reduce or eliminate the presence of warts. Be aware that HPV can be spread even in the absence of physical warts.
- Genital herpes (HSV-2): is transmitted through direct contact with the mouth or genitals of an infected person. Symptoms can occur between two days and two weeks after infection. This includes blisters or pimple type bumps on and around the anus, buttocks or penis. Herpes is a viral condition that cannot be cured and persists in the body. There are many effective treatments that can reduce or eliminate herpes outbreaks, but herpes can be spread even in the absence of physical symptoms (pimples, sores, and skin ulcers).
- Molluscum Contagiosum: This is a viral infection that results in small, firm, painless lesions or bumps that appear alone or in a patch one week to 6 months after initial infection. Bumps can be pink, red, skin-colored, or yellow in appearance and will generally have a “waxy” center. It is most commonly found in children but has become classified as an STD in recent years. MCV bumps can be itchy and may become infected if scratched. Left untreated the bumps will go away but can take anywhere from 6 months to 4 years. Clinical treatment can aid in the removal of MCV lesions.
- Syphilis – Stage 1: Syphilis is bacterial disease and can result in serious health complications if left untreated. There are four phases of a syphilis infection and each has its own set of symptoms. Stage 1 of syphilis is generally characterized by a small, firm, skin-colored, painless “bump” at or around the point of infection (where the bacteria entered the body) usually on the penis, anus, mouth, or lips. The appearance of lesions due to a syphilis infection will most likely occur within one week to 90 days after the initial infection. Syphilis “pimples” will rapidly disappear after they make an appearance, which makes it easy to mistake for a benign pimple. If you have had a change in sexual partners or behaviors, it is vital to be tested for syphilis and other STDs.
The majority of people will have some form of STD at some point in their lifetime. The widespread nature of STDs in America today is due to so many STD’s ability to infect an individual without the presence of obvious symptoms. It is crucial for anyone who is sexually active or experiencing suspicious signs and symptoms to get tested on a routine basis or anytime there is a change in sexual partners or habits.
STDAware offers no-cost physician consultation and treatment options for anyone who tests positive for having an STD.
Take Charge Of Your Sexual Health
The best way to prevent an STD infection is to be tested before engaging in sexual activity with a new partner. If you notice bumps or pimples on your partner it is wise for both you and your partner to be tested for an STD.
STDAware is here to empower individuals to take charge of their sexual health and wellbeing. Education and awareness are foremost in preventing, identifying, and appropriately treating and managing STD conditions. Feel free to visit our no-cost STD resource center and contact us if you have any questions.