Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on September 26, 2011

My penis has a small hard bump below the skin...but I’m a virgin. Could it be an STD?

Recently, I’ve noticed a hard, tiny bump below the skin on the top of my penis. When I move the skin around, the bump stays in place. I’m 17 and I’ve never been sexually active. Do you think I might have an STD?

answered by
David Sobel, MD, JD on September 26, 2011

Thank you for your question. You’re smart to be aware of small changes in your body…no one knows your body like you do. I’ll do my best to help. 

First, it’s likely that the bump on your penis is harmless…especially because you haven’t been sexually active. But to be on the safe side, I encourage you to visit your regular doctor to get a definite diagnosis of your symptom.

That said, here are a few ideas about what can sometimes cause a hard bump on the penis... 

A bump on the penis could indicate a number of things…from a harmless pimple to a sexually transmitted infection. Men can get pimples or ingrown hairs on and around the penis. Some people also develop a reaction to a new soap or lotion that might cause a rash. 

There are other possibilities, too…sometimes cysts can develop under the skin and cause harmless bumps. And some infections caused by viruses, bacteria or fungus can also cause a bump on your penis…in other words, it’s a smart idea to get checked out by your doctor.

You mention that you’ve never been sexually active, so you probably don’t have an STD…but, just to be sure, have you ever received oral sex? I ask because sex isn’t just vaginal or anal intercourse. Oral sex is another way that you can catch STDs. If you’ve had oral sex, especially if you didn’t use protection – like a latex condom – there’s a small chance that you might have been exposed to an STD like genital herpes or possibly even syphilis, both of which may show up as one or more bumps on the penis.

Also, an STD like genital warts is particularly easy to catch through genital-to-genital contact (even without penetration)…particularly if you didn’t use protection. You can find out more about STDs – including risk factors, symptoms and prevention – in our Expert Guide to STD Basics. 

If you think you might have been exposed to an STD, talk to your doctor about getting tested. It’s easy, quick and painless, and you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing your STD status for sure. Plus, if it turns out that you test positive for an STD, you can start any necessary treatments right away and avoid potential problems down the road. 

Thanks again for writing, and I hope your symptom is quickly identified and resolved.

Related info:

David Sobel, MD, JD

Dr. Sobel is a Colorado-based urologist and Director of the Denver Center for Men’s Health. His areas of expertise include men's sexual health and all areas of urology, including urologic oncology, treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy, stone disease and incontinence. Dr. Sobel was educated at the University of Michigan Law School and the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, and completed his residency at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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