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Last updated July 31, 2020. 5 minute read

Bump on penis: here are the usual causes

Finding a lump or bump on your penis can be alarming. The good news is that these don’t always signify a serious condition. In fact, many penile lumps and bumps are totally harmless.

Self Written by Michael Martin
Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD, MPH

Finding a lump or bump on your penis can be alarming. The good news is that these don’t always signify a serious condition. In fact, many penile lumps and bumps are totally harmless.

But this is a part of the body you’re probably—wisely—not accustomed to taking undue chances with. So it’s important to take careful note of your symptoms. You’ll want to consult your healthcare provider ASAP if they indicate a potential health issue that needs to be addressed, such as a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or potential cancer.

Vitals

  • Penis lumps or bumps are usually nothing to worry about, but sometimes they can indicate a sexually transmitted infection or potentially serious sexual health issue.
  • There are several harmless possible causes of penis lumps, such as pimples and benign growths, ingrown hairs, and cysts.
  • But if you have certain symptoms, you should consult a healthcare provider for evaluation ASAP.
  • There are many treatment options for lumps and bumps on the penis, depending on the cause; some are harmless and require no treatment.

Below, we’ll talk about the common reasons why you might have a lump or bump on your penis and when you should ask a healthcare provider about it.

Potential reasons for bumps on penis

Moles

Moles are harmless growths produced when the body generates too much pigment (melanin) in a small area. These can appear anywhere on the body, including the penis. The average person has anywhere from 10 to 40 moles (American Academy of Dermatology, n.d.). 

Moles are usually nothing to worry about—unless they grow in size, change in shape, color, or texture, have asymmetric or jagged borders, or bleed. Moles with any of those characteristics should be checked by a healthcare provider ASAP, as they could indicate skin cancer.

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Blemishes/zits

You can get a zit on any area of your body that contains hair follicles—and that includes the penis. A zit on your penis can happen just like a zit on your face: Sebum (oil), skin cells, dirt, and/or bacteria can get trapped in a follicle, causing inflammation. Like typical acne, a penile zit can be a blackhead, a whitehead, or can contain fluid or pus.

The same ground rule applies here as with your face: Popping a zit isn’t recommended because it can lead to infection. (You don’t want to use harsh acne creams on this sensitive area, either.) Most zits in the groin or on the penis go away within a few days, without needing any special treatment.

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Ingrown hairs

An ingrown hair happens when a hair gets trapped under the skin instead of growing outward. This can cause a bump that may be painful, itchy, or irritated and filled with fluid or pus. Ingrown hairs are common with hair that’s shorter or has been recently shaved, like that on the face or pubic region. Ingrown hairs might become infected and need to be extracted; it’s a good idea to see a dermatologist or other healthcare provider instead of trying to do it yourself. An infected hair follicle can also be caused by a condition called folliculitis, which is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection.

Cysts

Just like acne, cysts can develop on just about any part of your body, including your penis. A cyst is a benign growth filled with fluid. A cyst tends to closely match the color and texture of the skin around it, isn’t usually painful (but may feel somewhat sensitive), and doesn’t change shape but may get bigger.

Fordyce spots

Fordyce spots are small white bumps that can appear on the lips, the inside of the mouth, and the genitals. They’re tiny sebaceous glands that, unlike typical sebaceous glands, aren’t associated with a hair follicle (Lee, 2012). These spots are generally harmless and don’t require treatment (NHS, n.d.).

Pearly penile papules

Say that one three times fast. The small flesh-colored bumps are normally found on the head of the penis, where they encircle the entire penis head in a single or double row. They’re considered normal, don’t cause symptoms, and don’t require treatment (NHS, n.d.).

Angiokeratomas

These tiny red bumps can appear in small clusters in any areas of the body where blood vessels close to the skin have become enlarged. They may have a rough texture and thicken over time. Angiokeratomas can indicate an issue with your blood vessels — such as hypertension (high blood pressure) or varicocele (dilated veins in the scrotum) — so it’s a good idea to consult a healthcare provider if you notice them.

Peyronie’s disease

Peyronie’s disease is a condition in which fibrous scar tissue builds up in the penis, making it curve awkwardly or producing a lump. Painful erections and erectile dysfunction can result. Peyronie’s disease can get worse with time, so if you have those symptoms, it’s worth consulting a healthcare provider ASAP.

Lymphoceles

A lymphocele is a hard swelling that can appear on the penis after sex or masturbation. It happens when one of the lymph channels becomes temporarily blocked. Lymph channels are part of our immune system; they move a liquid called lymph, which is rich in white blood cells, around the body to fight infection and quell inflammation. Lymphoceles usually go away fairly rapidly on their own and don’t require special treatment (NHS, n.d.)

Molluscum contagiosum

This viral skin infection produces small, smooth, shiny bumps filled with a waxy substance. They can show up anywhere on the body via skin-to-skin contact. Molluscum contagiosum is very common, especially in children.

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Sexually transmitted infections

A bump on the penis could also be the sign of an STI, such as:

  • Genital herpes: Caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1 or HSV-2), genital herpes presents as small fluid-filled blisters that may be itchy or painful. A healthcare provider can prescribe antiviral medication to reduce or suppress outbreaks.
  • Genital warts: Genital warts are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). These are painless growths or lumps around the penis, vagina, or anus. They may be flesh-colored, grey-white, pink-white, or brown, can show up as single warts or in clusters, and may be smooth and pearly or cauliflower-shaped. A healthcare provider can prescribe several medications and treatments to clear genital warts (Leung, 2018). In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove them.
  • Syphilis: Caused by the Treponema pallidum bacterium, this STI usually shows up as a firm, round, painless sore on the genitals. It’s important to seek treatment for syphilis right away. Untreated, the disease can lead to severe health problems affecting the heart, brain, and other organs (CDC, 2017).

Scabies

Another condition that can cause bumps on the skin is scabies, in which a tiny mite burrows under the surface of the skin and lays eggs. This can cause intense itching, especially at night.

Cancer

If you find a lump or bump on your penis, you may be worried about cancer. The fact is that cancer of the penis is exceedingly rare. Only about 2,200 men are diagnosed with penile cancer each year. That represents less than 1% of all cancers. (ASCO, 2020). 

But The American Cancer Society recommends that you should see a healthcare provider about any new bump or abnormality on your penis—especially a bump that lasts for four weeks or longer or gets worse (ACS, n.d.)

Should I see a doctor?

You should also see a healthcare provider if you notice a bump on your penis after unprotected sexual contact or if you have any of the following symptoms: pain during sex or an erection, burning when you urinate, open sores, itchy or painful blisters, fever, fatigue, or an unusually colored or bad-smelling discharge. Or, just see a healthcare provider if you’re worried—reassurance in and of itself can be helpful.