Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on September 29, 2011

I have a couple bumps on my penis, but they don’t look like pictures I’ve seen of genital warts. What else could they be?

About a month ago, I noticed a tiny bump on the head of my penis. A week ago, another tiny bump appeared beside the first one. I've seen pictures of genital warts, but my bumps look nothing like the pictures I’ve seen. Do I have an STD? I’m concerned. 

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on September 29, 2011

I’m glad that you’re aware of changes in your body, and that you’re being proactive about researching your symptoms. Hopefully, I can shed some light on possible causes of the bumps on your penis. 

First, regarding bumps on the penis, there are many harmless skin conditions that aren’t necessarily STDs. For example, one possibility is that the bumps on your penis are symptoms of a common viral skin disease called molluscum contagiosum. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the bumps typically disappear within 6 to 12 months without treatment or scarring, although they will resolve much faster with treatment. There are other harmless skin bumps that aren’t STDs, too, including pearly penile papules and simple cysts, among others.

Do you know your risk for STDs? Of course, depending on your level of risk for STDs, you might also have a sexually transmitted infection. For example, do you have a history of STDs or unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex? Do you have a new sexual partner whose sexual history you don’t know? Or, perhaps you have multiple sexual partners? These are just some common risk factors for STDs...you can learn more in our Expert Guide to STD Risk Factors

If you’re sexually active and any of these scenarios apply to you, and if you haven’t been tested for STDs in the last six months, talk to you doctor about your need for STD testing. 

And because genital warts can appear differently on different people, the bumps on your penis may indeed be genital warts. I also encourage you to see your regular doctor for a visual examination of your bumps. While there isn’t yet a reliable HPV test for men, your doctor should be able to determine if you have genital warts upon visual inspection. (By the way, HPV ⎼ human papillomavirus ⎼ is the virus that causes genital warts.)

For more information about HPV, other STDs, and general information about STD risk factors and symptoms, you might want to browse our Expert Guide to STD Basics

And until you’re sure of the cause of your symptoms, and until you’ve completed any necessary treatment, you can avoid the possibility of spreading infection by not having sex. Finally, if you do test positive for an STD, please notify your current and recent partner(s) so they can also get tested and treated, if necessary.  

I hope this information helps you with you next steps of visiting your doctor, and that you symptoms are soon resolved.  

Related info:

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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