Check-Up: Bumps around the head of his penis

August 26, 2019

D.C is a 17-year-old man who has been sexually active for a while. He recently noticed that there’s a ring of pale bumps circling the head of his penis, just under the rim. He saw a doctor who told him not to worry, that it’s a natural occurrence in some men, but he would like another opinion.


This sounds like Pearly Penile Papules! These are small bumps which affect the area around the head (glans) of the penis and occur normally in up to 20 per cent of men. There are usually one or even more rows of them and they completely surround the head of the penis. These are not sexually transmitted and really don’t need treatment although they can be removed.

The medical name is Hirsuties papillaris genitalis (or Hursutoid Papillomas) and they are small 1-2 mm sized bumps that are attached to the rim of the penile head. This is not an infection, not a sign of uncleanliness, cancer or genital warts. They tend to occur more often in uncircumcised men and at the time when a man enters late puberty. They do not itch or bleed or grow much.

There are a few other conditions which can occur and might require a dermatologist to confirm the diagnosis. These include:

n Molluscum Contagiosum –This is caused by a virus and is catching but is not usually sexually transmitted. It can be caught from sharing towels and occasionally, yes, via sex. The lesions might itch. The condition often resolves by itself but a dermatologist can help ease the way and help prevent spread.

n Acne-A form of acne known of as ‘white heads’ can sometimes also occur on the base or shaft of the penis. Not usually on the head of the penis. This can be treated with acne medication but the condition often resolves on its own.

n Genital warts can occur on and around the penile head and appear usually as cauliflower swellings. If the man is sexually active and if the swellings seen on the penis are new, and especially if they do not surround the penile head or also occur elsewhere on the penis, then genital warts, which is a sexually transmitted disease, must be checked for.

D.C. can visit the Comprehensive Clinic in Kingston for an expert opinion if he is not up to further private doctor fees or a dermatologist if possible to obtain a second opinion, which is best made by visualising the swellings. He can also visit the closest health clinic.


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