Causes, Identification, Treatment and More
What causes a pimple on your penis?
Pimples are the result of clogged pores on your body. The oil that helps keep your skin from drying out, called sebum, and dead skin cells clog your pores. This causes lesions called pimples, pimples, or acne on your body, explains the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
Pimples appear most often on your:
Yet they can occur anywhere on your body, including your penis.
Different types of acne can appear on your body. These include:
- Pimples or pustules: These papules are usually topped with white or yellow pus-filled lesions that tend to be red or discolored at the base.
- Wheals: These lesions tend to be inflamed and appear as small pink bumps. They are also generally tender to the touch.
- White dots: These clogged hair follicles remain below the surface of the skin and produce a white top.
- Black spots : These clogged follicles reach the surface of the skin and open up. They appear black due to the air discoloring the sebum.
- Nodules: These large and often painful lesions are solid and deep in the skin.
- Severe nodular acne (cystic acne): These deep, usually painful lesions are filled with pus.
Learn more about acne.
Which STIs are mistaken for a pimple on your penis?
People often confuse a few sexually transmitted infections (STIs) with pimples on the penis.
Genital herpes is a common STI in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is spread when a person has oral, vaginal or anal sex with an infected person.
Genital herpes often causes no symptoms. However, people often confuse mild symptoms with a pimple or ingrown hair. Herpes sores usually present as one or more blisters in the areas of the genitals, mouth, or rectum. The blisters can leave painful sores that often take a week or more to fully heal.
Syphilis is a potentially serious STI if left untreated, according to the CDC. Syphilis is transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person. It develops in stages, each with its own signs and symptoms.
The first, or primary, stage usually begins with one or more sores. These sores usually appear where the infection has entered your body.
Common spaces for them to perform include:
- lips or mouth
These sores are usually firm, round and painless. However, this can vary from person to person. Even if the sores go away on their own, you should still see a doctor to prevent the infection from getting worse.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI in the United States, according to the CDC. As with other STIs, HPV is transmitted through vaginal, oral or anal sex with an infected person.
HPV often goes away on its own within 2 years without causing symptoms. If HPV does not go away on its own, it can cause other problems, such as genital warts and cancer.
Genital warts usually appear as a single small bump or a group of bumps in the genital area. These bumps can be:
- large or small
- flat or raised
- cauliflower shaped
HPV is preventable with HPV vaccination.
Molluscum contagiosum is an infection caused by a virus called poxvirus.
One of the ways it spreads is through person-to-person contact, including sexual contact. In fact, many cases of molluscum contagiosum in adults are the result of sexual contact.
It also spreads if you share items, like clothes and towels, that contain the virus.
Lesions caused by molluscum contagiosum usually look like this, according to the CDC:
- between 2 and 5 millimeters in diameter
- pink, white or the same tone as your skin
- have a dimple or pit in the center
These bumps can also become itchy, painful, and red or discolored.
Learn more about STIs.
What other conditions can cause pimple-like bumps on your penis?
Various skin conditions can cause pimple-like bumps on your penis.
According to a study published in 2018, pearly penile papules (PPPs) are common non-cancerous bumps or lesions that appear on the penis. They usually occur in adolescence or early adulthood.
PPPs usually appear as uniform dome-shaped bumps in one or two rows just below the head of the penis. They usually do not require treatment.
Learn more about pearly penile papules.
Fordyce spots are small, harmless spots that can appear on the head or shaft of the penis. These spots are usually white or yellow.
Fordyce spots can also appear on your lips or inside your cheeks. They are present in 80 to 95% of adults and generally do not require treatment.
Learn more about Fordyce Spots.
Folliculitis is a common skin condition that usually involves infection of the hair follicles, according to 2022 research. It’s usually mild or non-cancerous and goes away on its own without treatment.
Folliculitis tends to look like a sudden outbreak of acne.
Learn more about folliculitis.
Staph infections are caused by staph bacteria. These infections usually affect the skin. They may go away on their own but sometimes require antibiotics to treat them.
Symptoms of staph infections include:
- red or discolored bump that may be painful
- warm, red, or discolored, swollen skin
- sores or blisters
- sore, red eyelids or eyes
Learn more about staph infection.
How to treat pimples on your penis?
Treatment largely depends on the cause of the pimple or pimple-like bump on your penis. STIs are often treatable with antibiotics.
Typical pimple treatment includes products containing benzoyl peroxide, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. However, as the skin on your penis may be more sensitive, consult your doctor before using this type of product in this area.
Keeping the skin clean and dry can also help with pimples on your penis.
Most other causes of pimple-like bumps on your penis usually don’t require treatment. However, if you notice any new bumps or changes in your penis, discuss them with your doctor.
Pimples are the result of clogged pores and can appear anywhere on your body. This includes your penis.
Various STIs and other conditions can cause pimple-like bumps on your penis. These include genital herpes, syphilis, and pearly penile papules.
Most conditions that can cause these pimple-like bumps do not require treatment. However, you should consider telling your doctor about any new bumps or changes in your penis.