What Are Pearly Penile Papules?

Officially known as Hirsuties papillaris genitalis, pearly penile papules are small skin-colored bumps that form on the penis, often in rows encircling the sulcus or corona. They are not open and do not pop or “seep.” They do not cause physical irritation, though some men report a sensation they find unpleasant. The condition is physically harmless and can not be spread through sexual contact. The bumps or lesions most commonly develop on men in their 20s and 30s and fade and decrease in frequency as men progress in age. Uncircumcised men tend to develop them at a higher rate than those who are circumcised. Statistics are vague on how common PPP is, with reports ranging from 8%-48%. Though the condition is considered a “normal variant” that does not need treatment, some men suffer psychological distress over the condition, feeling social and sexual embarrassment. The cause is unknown at this point.

A Summary of Facts about PPP and Treatment

Facts Provided by Expert Dermatologist Dr. Groff

  1. Pearly Penile Papules (PPP) are very common and affect approximately 25% of men. They are more common in uncircumcised men.
  2. PPP are small, flesh-colored skin tags or domes that form around the rim and underside of the tip of the penis. They commonly appear in rows and do not cause any pain, itching or burning.
  3. PPP are considered a normal finding and they are totally harmless. They are not contagious in any way. They are not a sexually transmitted disease (STD), therefore you could not have been “infected” by sexual contact – nor is there a risk of passing this onto your sexual partner.
  4. PPP are commonly mistaken for genital warts, even by physicians, so it is very important to seek out the expertise of a board certified dermatologist if there is any question about the diagnosis.
  5. PPP can be very embarrassing and stressful for men because they may look cosmetically unacceptable and often times can be confused with a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
  6. Home remedies and topical wart treatments will not get rid of PPP, and will often irritate the area.
  7. I use the latest generation Lumenis CO2 laser to painlessly and permanently remove PPP. This laser has a beam that is as wide as the tip of a sharpened pencil, and we can remove each papule without damaging the normal skin of the penis.
  8. All that is needed to numb the penis and enable us to treat our patients painlessly is a topical cream. I do not use any injections.
  9. Most patients go back to work the next day and experience very little, if any discomfort while healing.
  10. Most men are healed in 1-2 weeks and can resume sexual activity.
  11. I have not had any patients develop scarring, loss of sensation, infection, or any other serious side effect. It is reasonable to expect some swelling and crusting after your treatment while you are healing.
  12. There is no reason to suffer from PPP. The treatment, when done by dermatologist who is well trained and experienced with the CO2 laser, is safe, painless, and extremely effective.