Anonymous on September 14, 2011

I’ve always had these small bumps on my penis...they’re similar to the ones around nipples on girls. What are they?

I’ve always had these small bumps on my penis...they’re similar to the ones around nipples on girls. What are they? Can I get rid of them? They’re not painful unless I pick at them like a pimple. I’ve had the same sexual partner for four years so I’m pretty sure I don’t have an STD. Please help!

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on September 14, 2011

Thanks so much for sharing your questions. While only your regular doctor can diagnosis the small bumps on your penis upon a visual examination, I’m happy to offer you my best thoughts on what might be causing your symptom.

You may right that the bumps you see on your penis aren’t STD-related. Small bumps on the penis could be harmless sweat glands or hair fact, a lot of men notice these harmless bumps during puberty as the hormones in their bodies change.

If the bumps you see are located around the head (glans) of your penis, another possible cause is a skin condition called “pearly penile papules.” These small bumps can be white or skin-colored, and are also usually domed and smooth. They’re often found circling the head of the penis, but they’re nothing to worry about.

Some skin conditions can also cause small bumps on the penis, including lichen nitidus. Although rare, this skin condition can cause domed, smooth bumps that are either skin-colored or lighter than your normal skin color. The bumps are usually raised slightly from the surface of the skin.

If you have lichen nitidus, it’s typical to first notice the bumps as a child or young adult...the good news is that this condition eventually goes away on its own. However, if you’re worried about appearance, your doctor can prescribe some soothing lotions that may help the bumps get smaller and go away faster.

Your doctor will also be able to determine whether the bumps you’re experiencing are caused by an STD like genital warts.
Speaking of STDs, when was the last time you and your partner were tested? You say that you’ve been with the same partner for four years. That’s great for your sexual health, because being in a mutually monogamous relationship greatly reduces your and your partner’s level of risk for STDs...that is, if neither of you has an STD, or you know each other’s STD status and you’ve taken any necessary precautions (e.g., practicing safer sex and getting treated, if needed).

But if you and your partner haven’t been tested for common STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV and syphilis, you may want to consider doing do. Remember, some STDs can infect the body “silently” (showing no obvious symptoms) getting tested is the only way to know your status for sure.

To learn more about STD risk factors, symptoms, testing, treatment and prevention, see our Expert Guide to STD Basics.

I wish you and your partner the best of health.

Related info:

Lisa Oldson, MD

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.

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