Pearly Penile Papules (Tyson Glands): Causes & Treatment

Clinical review: Dr. Rodolfo Favaretto
February 2022

Pearly penile papules are caused by the presence of visible Tyson glands, also known as sebaceous glands or Fordyce spots. This type of gland can be found around the head of the penis and produce a lubricant liquid that helps reduce friction during sexual intercourse. 

While they are usually not seen, there are some situations where these glands become more visible, in which they look like small papules or white spots.

Usually, there is no need for treatment for Tyson glands, as they are normal and benign modified glands. However, if they cause any kind of discomfort or low self-esteem, you are advised to consult a doctor for treatment treatment.

What causes Tyson glands to appear

Tyson glands are glands that are present in the penis since birth, and there is no other cause related to their appearance. However, they are more visible during erection and sexual intercourse, as they are responsible for the production of lubricant liquid to reduce friction.

As mentioned, they are normal, and benign, and do not result in any signs or symptoms like itching or pain. However, some men may feel uncomfortable with their appearance, as they are little white papules that appear under the head of the penis. If you have visible papules and experience symptoms, it is important to see your doctor so that the cause can be identified, as that may not be Tyson glands.

Treatment options 

In most cases, Tyson glands do not need any treatment, as they are benign and they do not cause health problems. However, in some men, they can cause a change in the way they see themselves, which can make sexual intercourse harder.

In these cases, the urologist may recommend:

  • Cauterization: this technique consists of using an electric current to burn the glands and remove them. Usually, this procedure is done under local anesthetic.
  • Small surgical procedure: the doctor applies a local anesthetic and then uses a scalpel to remove the glands. An experienced urologist can do this in the exam room;

Even though it would be easier to apply topical medication or lotion to remove Tyson glands, there are none available for this purpose. It is important to conisder that removing the pearly penile papules can cause the skin of the penis to dry out, and it gets irritated and breaks easily. So, urologists usually avoid it and they do not recommend it. 

Is there a home treatment?

There are various home treatments, such as acids and medication for warts and callouses. However, these are not safe, as they can cause serious irritation of the penis, and should be avoided. In any case, we advise that you check with a urologist before trying any home treatment.

Are pearly penile papules contagious?

Pearly penile papules that are caused by Tyson glands are not contagious and are not considered a sexually transmitted infection.

A lot of times, these lesions can be confused with genital warts (which are caused by the HPV virus), therefore the only way to confirm diagnosis is to consult your doctor.

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Atualizado por Tua Saude editing team, em February de 2022. Clinical review por Dr. Rodolfo Favaretto - Urologist, em December de 2020.
Clinical review:
Dr. Rodolfo Favaretto
Dr. Favaretto is registered to practice under the CRM-SP license #133358 (Brazil). He has specialized in urology since 2016 and is a member of the American Urology Association.