Pearly Penile Papules: All you ever wanted to know

A thousand questions may be running through your mind right now. What in the world is that bump? Did I catch a disease? Do I have cancer? Stop. Take a deep breath. Relax. While it can be unnerving to find bumps on your penis, there may be a simple and benign explanation. Though you should have it checked out by a doctor just to be sure, your diagnosis is likely pearly penile papules, scientifically referred to as hirsuties papillaris genitalis. What? Despite the funny alliteration, finding these bumps can be really scary and an uncomfortable topic to bring up to your doctor. But, once you know what they are, you can figure out what you want to do about them.

What they are not

To set your mind at ease from the start, pearly penile papules are completely benign. Many men mistakenly think they have acquired a sexually transmitted disease or developed genital warts when they first notice the lumps. They are not a symptom of an STD. There is really no known reason why the bumps form, but it has nothing to do with sexual activity or personal hygiene. If you are experiencing discharge or see a yellowish-white color, you probably have a clogged gland or sebaceous cyst instead. Either way, having a doctor look at it is wise.

What they are

Pearly penile papules are tiny bumps that ring the rim of the penis head. They are typically flesh-colored or a little lighter and have a smooth dome shape. Interestingly, they also seem to form in organized rows, like a string of pearls. There are no harmful effects other than some possible sensitivity that may be uncomfortable during sex or other activities.

Actually, these bumps are very common, especially among men in their twenties and thirties. Uncircumcised men also report a high occurrence of the papules as well. Throughout your lifetime, it is possible that the bumps will appear and disappear on their own. Even though they are harmless, do not pick at them or try to pop them. You can cause some serious damage- scarring and infection can occur. See a doctor if they bother you.


Though there is no risk to your health, you don’t have to live with them. If you are feeling self-conscious or embarrassed by them, carbon dioxide laser ablation can remove or reduce the appearance of the bumps. Before you cringe at the thought of using a laser “down there,” remember that you do not have to do anything at all. Just know that you have an option.

It is a rather simple procedure, with little to no discomfort during the recovery. A dermatologist uses the CO2 laser to carefully vaporize the bumps. Your doctor will numb the area first with topical lidocaine only. No injections are needed to numb the treatment area. Afterward, there will be some scabbing and swelling, but don’t worry – you should be back to normal in a week or two. CO2 laser ablation is the safest and most effective method of treatment.

Whatever you do, do not ignore unusual lumps and bumps on your penis. It is always best to have a doctor diagnose your problem. If it turns out to be just pearly penile papules, you can rest easy. If they become a problem to your social life or self-esteem, find a dermatologist or surgeon who can remove them. You don’t have to let these benign little bumps ruin your life!