What are these small white bumps around the head of my penis?
Lisa Oldson, MD on August 26, 2011
Thanks for writing. Anytime something unusual appears in the genital area, it’s a good idea to get informed, diagnosed and ⎼ if needed ⎼ treated as soon as possible. I encourage you to visit your doctor to find out what the small white bumps are. However, here are some thoughts for your consideration...
First, there are many types of bumps that men can get on their penises that aren’t caused by STDs.
But to rule out a possible sexually transmitted infection, I encourage you to get tested for common STDs if you’re sexually active. Testing for STDs is particularly important if you’ve engaged in risky sexual behaviors. If example, you may be at higher risk if you recently started a new sexual relationship with someone whose STD status you don’t know, if you have multiple sexual partners or if you’ve had unprotected oral sex, vaginal sex or anal sex lately.
Visit your doctor for a diagnosis and to discuss STD testing options. However causes of small, white bumps on your penis include some of the conditions below…
Genital herpes can look like tiny blisters – the size of a head of a pin. Herpes blisters are typically very fragile and delicate. They will typically pop right away and turn into an open sore, appearing much like a scraped knee, only smaller. Herpes can be very painful.
And yes, the herpes virus can definitely be transmitted through oral sex. But If you do end up testing positive for herpes, don’t fret...while herpes isn’t curable, it’s extremely manageable. With treatment, you’ll live a normal, healthy life. You can learn more about herpes symptoms, treatment and prevention in our Expert Guide to Herpes 1 + 2.
Genital warts can also appear as small white bumps. Genital warts ⎼ caused by some types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) ⎼ can be spread through unprotected skin-to-skin contact with an infected person, including oral, vaginal or anal sex. For a more detailed explanation of genital warts and what you can do about them, see our HPV overview.
The good news is that there are non-infectious, harmless conditions that can cause bumps on your penis, too. For example, pearly papules of the penis (hirsuties coronae glandis)
are common, tiny, sometimes whitish looking bumps that have a funny name and are completely harmless. They are often located at the bottom of the head of the penis, as you described.
The skin disease, molluscum contagiosum (MC), can cause small bumps on the penis as well. And there are other non infectious benign conditions that could cause little bumps, too (such as cysts) so the only way to know for sure is to see your doctor for an examination.
Once you visit your doctor you’ll have a better idea the cause of the small white bumps on your penis. Don’t be timid about sharing your concerns with your doctor...it’s the only way to know for sure what the bumps are and what treatment is right for your. Good luck and I hope your symptoms are soon resolved.
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.