Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on September 28, 2011

I have whiteheads at the base of my penis...can I do something about them?

I’m worried because my penis has a large number of whiteheads around its base. Is there a way to get rid of them so I can have clear skin? 

answered by
Ruthann M. Cunningham, MD on September 28, 2011

Thanks for your question. I can understand your concern...however it’s hard to know if you’re seeing pimples, a skin condition or even an STD without an examination. At this point, it's best for you to see a dermatologist or your regular doctor for a specific diagnosis and treatment, if necessary.

In the meantime, here are some thoughts for you to consider: 

You may be right…what you’re seeing may be nothing more than whiteheads or pimples at the base of your penis. Some people develop clogged pores in their genital area, which can cause pimple-like bumps similar the ones you describe. Another harmless cause of bumps near the penis are ingrown hairs that occur most often upon shaving or wearing tight clothing. Your doctor will be able to help you with treatment suggestions if this is the cause of the bumps.

Normal growths called skin tags could also be the cause. In one study published in the journal Dermatologica, researchers found that about 25% of people have skin tags on some part of their body. Skin tags are more common on parts of the body that experience a lot of friction (like the groin). They’re not dangerous, but they also won’t go away on their own...so talk to your doctor to find out if you have skin tags and what you can do about them.

Genital warts can also cause symptoms of white bumps on the genitals. Although genital warts are usually described as skin-colored, peach or grayish in color, some people have white warts. Genital warts are caused by certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) which may be transferred through skin-to-skin contact (often during vaginal, anal or oral sex). Just so you know, it’s possible to catch HPV from someone even if they don’t have any visible warts. 

A doctor can determine whether you have genital warts on sight of the area. If you do have warts, your doctor can prescribe treatment (typically, a cream). For more detailed information about HPV, see our HPV Overview.

If you’re sexually active, getting tested for common STDs is a good idea, too. Even though the bumps you see may not be an STD, regular testing for common STDs – e.g., herpes 1 and 2, hepatitis B and C, chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV and syphilis – can help you avoid complications from untreated STDs and prevent you from passing an STD to your partner(s). You can learn more about STD risk factors, symptoms and testing in our Expert Guide to STD Basics

I hope this helped you understand some of the possible causes of white bumps on the genitals. Thanks again for your question and good luck with a resolution to your symptoms. 

Related Info: 

Ruthann M. Cunningham, MD

Dr. Cunningham is a member of the Analyte Physicans Group. She's also a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, practicing at both Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital in Illinois and at Wheaton Franciscan All Saints Medical Center in Wisconsin. An ER physician since 2000, she regularly treats patients with STDs. Dr. Cunningham was educated at Wayne State University School of Medicine and completed her Emergency Medicine residency at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, IL.

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