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Lump or pimple on the penis: 7 main causes and how to treat it

April 2020

Penile lumps, often pimple-like, can appear at any age and, in most cases, are related to benign problems such as pearly papules (white spots) or Fordyce spots.

However, it is normal that any change to your penis makes you feel anxious, because it could be a sign of cancer. Although cancer is a very rare condition of this type of lump or pimple, it can also cause this type of symptom, so it is important to see your urologist to identify the problem and start the correct treatment.

Lump or pimple on the penis: 7 main causes and how to treat it

1. Pearly papules

These papules, also known as Tyson's glands, are small white, pimple-like lumps that can appear under the head of the penis and are often mistaken for genital warts. These are normal and benign glands that are present from birth, but usually appear during adolescence. Apart from the aesthetic change, these glands cause no pain or any other major change.

How to treat it: Usually no treatment is required, but if the papules cause a large change to the appearance of the penis, the urologist may recommend cryotherapy or cauterization treatments in the doctor’s surgery.

2. Fordyce spots

Fordyce spots are very common benign changes that can cause small white or yellow spots to appear on the head or body of the penis, unrelated to any type of sexually transmitted diseases. Although they are more frequent during adolescence, due to hormonal changes, they can appear at any age.

How to treat it: The treatment is for aesthetic reasons only and may include a variety of techniques such as using urethane tretinoin gel or using a laser to remove the spots. This type of change normally cannot be completely eliminated.

3. Genital warts

Genital warts are caused by a HPV virus infection that can cause changes to the skin of the penis so that it still has its normal colour but is rougher to the touch, similar to the top part of a cauliflower. These warts can vary greatly in size, but usually don’t hurt and can be seen with the naked eye.

Genital warts usually appear after unprotected sexual intercourse, whether anal, vaginal or oral, with an infected person.

How to treat it: When there are symptoms, ointments such as Podophyllin prescribed by the urologist can be used to eliminate the warts. However, it is common for warts to come back, as it takes the body several years to eliminate the virus.

Genital warts
Genital warts

4. Lymphocele

This is a type of hard lump that can appear on the body of the penis, especially after sexual contact or masturbation. It happens when the lymphatic system is unable to remove fluid from the penis due to the swelling, which closes the lymphatic pathways. Lymphocele usually disappears a few minutes or hours after it appears.

How to treat it: This is a benign change that disappears on its own and so doesn’t require any medical treatment. However, massaging the lump can help drain the fluid faster. If the lump doesn’t disappear after several hours, see the urologist to identify the cause and start treatment.

5. Lichen planus

Lichen planus is an inflammation of the skin that can affect the penis and may cause small itchy little bumps, pimples or red lumps to appear. No cause is known for this problem, but it usually goes away on its own after a few weeks and may appear several times over the years.

How to treat it: Treatment only helps to reduce symptoms and, in most cases, is done with the use of corticosteroids in the form of ointments or creams. However, your doctor may also prescribe the use of an antihistamine, especially if there is severe itching.

6. Peyronie's disease

Peyronie's disease, which has no specific cause, is the development of plaques in the corpus cavernosum of the penis and can manifest as hard lumps on one side. Other symptoms such as a painful erection or curving of the penis during erection are also common.

How to treat it: The urologist may inject collagenase or verapamil directly into the lump to reduce the process of fibrosis that is causing it to grow, but in most cases, surgery is needed to correct the changes.

7. Penile cancer

This is one of the rarest types of cancer, but it can also cause the appearance of lumps, ulcers or sores, especially on the head of the penis. This type of cancer is more common in men over 60 who are smokers and don’t have adequate hygiene in the area, but can also happen when there is inadequate exposure of the area to ultraviolet radiation or when there is prolonged exposure to irritants.

How to treat it: Treatment almost always starts with surgery to remove as many cancer cells as possible, followed by chemotherapy or radiation. In more severe cases, it may be necessary to remove the penis to prevent cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.

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