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Pimple on Penis

On This Page: STDs | Non-Sexual | What To Do | Treatment | Prevention

Like skin anywhere else on your body, pimples can appear on the penis. Although pimples are usually harmless and not a cause for alarm, certain conditions including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can cause lumps and bumps that resemble pimples. Therefore, it can be easy to overlook health issues that may require treatment.

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What are Penis Pimples?

Although pimples are more common on areas like the face, they can also form on the sensitive skin of the genitals, like the head and shaft of the penis. A pimple, also known as a zit, is a small, round bump on the skin that develops when a pore becomes clogged with oil, dead skin cells, bacteria, or other debris, causing infection and swelling. The base of a pimple is usually red or flesh-colored and may feel hard or tender to the touch.

Pimples can form with or without a head, which can differ in color depending on what material has caused the buildup. There are various types of pimples, including blackheads (black tip) and whiteheads (white tip). Some pimples may contain pus.

Penis pimples can occur whether you’re sexually active or not. But if you are sexually active, you may be at risk for STDs, which can cause serious health problems if ignored and left untreated.

What STDs Get Confused for Penis Pimples?

Some signs of STDs can at first be mistaken for a pimple or ingrown hair until symptoms escalate. STDs can cause bumps, rashes, sores, or lesions which a person may easily confuse for minor skin conditions.

STDs that cause pimple-like skin problems include:

  • Genital herpes – A viral infection that can cause patches of fluid-filled sores that can become open, ooze fluids, and crust over. Herpes is often spread through sexual through contact with a herpes sore, infected saliva or genital secretions, or skin-to-skin contact with the mouth or genitals of someone who has the virus.1
  • Syphilis – A bacterial infection that can cause single or multiple chancres (painless, crater-like sores) on or around the genitals, around the anus or in the rectum, or in or around the mouth during the primary stage of infection, and a skin rash in the secondary stage. Syphilis is spread through direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex.2
  • Certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) – A viral infection that can cause genital warts. Genital warts can vary in size and appearance: Single bump or group of bumps which are small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower.3
  • Molluscum contagiosum – A viral infection that causes small, raised lesions that are usually white, pink, or flesh-colored with a dimple or pit at the center. Mollusca may occur anywhere on the body, and the virus can be spread through physical contact and contaminated objects, like clothing, towels, and toys.4

Non-Sexual Causes of Pimple-like Bumps

Not all pimple-like bumps on the penis are caused by STDs. Skin conditions that may cause similar symptoms include:5

  • Folliculitis – A condition caused when the hair follicles become infected, resulting in inflamed pimples. Sebaceous cysts are yellowish pimples or bumps that are caused by blocked or clogged oil glands. (sebaceous glands) They typically go away on their own without medical care.
  • Pearly penile papules (PPP) – Flesh-colored skin growths that are spiny in shape. They often are found in a ring around the edge of the head of the penis, just above the shaft. They are a normal skin variation that some men have. PPP are harmless, and you may notice them less as you age. They are not the result of an STD or and aren’t contagious.
  • Fordyce spots – Whitish-yellow or flesh-colored spots caused by enlarged oil glands, often more visible during erections because the skin is stretched. They commonly form on the lips or inside the cheek, but can also occur on the penis. They are harmless, not infectious, and usually do not have any symptoms.
  • Razor burn – Small, irritated red bumps that pop up due to bacteria or ingrown hairs on or near the genitals after shaving.
  • Staph infection – While staph bacteria (Staphylococcus) is carried by about 25 percent of people and lives on the body, a genital staph infection is a rare occurrence. Tiny nicks or cuts caused by razors allow the bacteria to enter the body, causing a pus-filled boil to form. Staph is a contagious infection, but is not an STD. Treatment with antibiotics is necessary as staph can spread and cause serious health problems (including death).6

What Should You Do If You Find a Penis Pimple?

There are many types of penis pimples and bumps, but they all have one thing in common: they should not be popped or squeezed. Popping a pimple on your penis can lead to infection or scarring.

For penis pimples, it’s important to keep the pimple and the surrounding area clean and dry, but you should avoid scrubbing or using harsh cleansers, which can irritate the sensitive penis region. If the pimple doesn’t disappear or if it oozes pus or changes in size, shape, or texture, it may be a sign of infection or another underlying condition and it may be worth consulting a doctor.

If you’re sexually active and are unsure about what’s causing penis bumps, you should consider getting tested for STDs. It’s easy to do through a doctor or clinic, or you can get tested quickly and discreetly at one of our convenient lab locations.

Treatment

Most pimples don’t require treatment because they disappear on their own after a few days.  If the pimple doesn’t go away or if it shows signs of being infected, visit a doctor or dermatologist for treatment.

On the other hand,  if a bump is something other than a pimple, treatment depends on the underlying cause. Some bumps are natural or harmless and don’t require treatment. Other causes can be cured or treated with medication. For example, caught early, syphilis is curable with an injection of penicillin, and herpes outbreaks are manageable with antiviral medication.

Prevention

Factors that increase the likelihood of a penis pimple include poor hygiene, excess sweating, tight-fitting clothes, and oily skin. Addressing these likely causes can help prevent pimples from developing again.

Ways to reduce pimples include:

  • Practice good hygiene, including regular showers and hand washing
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes that don’t rub and cause friction
  • Change clothing and bedding regularly
  • Minimize activities that cause sweating
  1. “Genital Herpes - CDC Fact Sheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes.htm
  2. “Syphilis - CDC Fact Sheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis.htm
  3. “Genital HPV Infection - Fact Sheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm
  4. “Molluscum Contagiosum.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/molluscum-contagiosum/index.html
  5. “Penile Appearance, Lumps and Bumps.” Australian Family Physician. https://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2013/may/penile-appearance/
  6. “MRSA - Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus.” Illinois Department of Public Health. http://www.idph.state.il.us/public/hb/hbmrsa.htm

Medically Reviewed by on February 13, 2020


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