Anonymous on September 26, 2011

How do I know if I have a pimple on my penis or if I have an STD?

The other day when I was urinating, I felt a little bump on my penis. I squeezed it and a whitehead came out...just like a pimple. Since then, the "pimple" got bigger and irritated. It’s the first time it has happened to me...should I be worried?

answered by Eric Christoff, MD, AAHIVM on September 26, 2011

I’m glad that you’re observant of changes in your body. I hope you’ll visit your doctor to find out the cause of the bump on you penis...but I’m glad to offer you my thoughts on “When is a pimple just a pimple?”

First, it’s definitely possible to get pimples on your genitals if the pores become clogged. A different condition of chronic (long-lasting) genital acne is technically known as hidradenitis suppurativa, and it’s neither contagious nor due to poor hygiene. It can be caused by tight clothes and profuse sweating, both of which clog up the pores. It can also be genetic. 

Most pimples will clear up on their own over time, especially if you restrain yourself from touching them. However, hidradenitis suppurativa may require medical attention to clear up. For a definite diagnosis - and treatment, if necessary - I suggest you see your doctor for an examination of your symptoms. 

That said, be aware that symptoms of some STDs include one or more bumps or sores on the penis...for example, genital herpes, genital warts and syphilis. To learn more about symptoms for these and other STDs, and whether any STD risk factors apply to you, check out our Expert Guide to STD Basics. 

Because the bump you describe could be caused by a number of conditions, scheduling a visit with your doctor would be a smart first step. And if you’re sexually active and you haven’t been tested for common STDs recently, talk to your doctor about that, too. 

Remember, getting tested for STDs is the only way to know for sure whether you have a sexually transmitted infection that might require treatment before it progresses to a more advanced stage. 

Thanks so much for writing to us, and I wish you good luck and good health. 

Related info:

Eric Christoff, MD, AAHIVM

Dr. Christoff is a practicing physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. His areas of expertise include the treatment of HIV and syphilis along with other STDs, the medical treatment of depression and chronic fatigue, and the specific health needs of gay and lesbian patients. Dr. Christoff was educated at the University of Toledo, College of Medicine and completed his residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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