Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions
I’ve noticed some spots on my penis when it’s erect...do I have HPV?
I have a lot of visible spots on my penis that I can only see when I have an erection. I’ve also just noticed some largish brown blotches in my genital area. One is on my penis and there are a few others beside my penis on my legs. I’m usually healthy, but now I’m worried. Do I have HPV?
Ruthann M. Cunningham, MD on September 20, 2011
Thanks for your question and the description of your symptoms.
Do you have the kind of HPV that causes genital warts? It’s possible. Genital warts are caused by a type of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that can be in your body without any symptoms for years. The genital warts caused by HPV vary in appearance and can occur alone or in clusters. Some warts are flat and others are elevated...in fact, some people say their warts look like a cauliflower.
In terms of color, genital warts are usually skin-colored, grayish, or pinkish...but some people have brownish warts, too, so this could be what you have. And if do you have genital warts, they might show up anywhere in the genital area, including the penis, scrotum, anus and hips.
To be on the safe side, see your regular doctor for an in-person evaluation, diagnosis and treatment, if necessary. And if you don’t have genital warts, your doctor will also be able to help you determine what other condition might be causing your symptoms.
In the meantime, until you know the cause of your symptoms, I suggest that you avoid sexual activity. And if it turns out that you do have genital warts, be sure to share your status with your sexual partner(s) so they can also get evaluated and treated, if necessary. To further reduce the risk of spreading genital warts, use a condom for oral, vaginal and anal sex.
Remember, genital warts are easily spread, especially when they’re active (visible). Howeveer, even after you’ve been treated and the warts are no longer visible, you can still spread your infection. Although treatable, HPV is not curable...so there’s always a risk of transmission. For more information about risk factors, symptoms, testing and treatment, see our HPV Overview.
If you have genital warts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that screening for other STDs is a good idea. Some common STDs you may want to be tested for include herpes types 1 and 2 (HSV-1, HSV-2), chlamydia and gonorrhea, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis and HIV. A urine sample and a blood sample are all that most doctors offices or test centers need to determine if you have any of these STDs. And once you know if you have an STD, you can start any needed treatment right away.
I hope this information has been helpful, and I wish you success in resolving your symptoms.
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.