Lumps on the penis are a common occurrence, affecting most males at some point. The majority of lumps are not a cause for concern, as they are typically pimples or harmless growths.
However, a lump on the penis can result from a sexually transmitted infection (STI). And in rare cases, penis lumps can be cancerous.
In this article, we list 16 potential causes of a lump on the penis and suggest when to see a doctor.
These small, yellow or white spots are tiny glands that appear on the head or shaft of the penis. People can also get Fordyce spots on their lips or cheeks.
Fordyce spots are very common, affecting up to 95% of adults. They do not require treatment, and most cases resolve in time.
Pearly penile papules are dome-shaped, skin-colored lumps that appear around the head of the penis. They typically form in rows. The doctor may refer to them as hirsutoid papillomas.
These tiny lumps are normal, they do not cause symptoms, and they do not require treatment. Pearly penile papules may reduce or disappear as a person ages.
An ingrown hair can also cause a pimple to form on the shaft of the penis.
These bumps usually go away after a few days or weeks. Avoid popping the pimples, as this can lead to infection.
When a lymph channel in the penis becomes blocked, a hard swelling can form at the penile shaft. This swelling is a lymphocele, and it typically occurs after sex or masturbation.
These blockages tend to clear quickly, so treatment is typically unnecessary.
The Tyson glands produce oil, and they sit in pairs on either side of the frenulum. The frenulum is the elastic band of tissue under the penis that connects it to the foreskin.
These glands can appear as small white or yellow bumps under the head of the penis. The Tyson glands are normal structures and are not a cause for concern. Therefore, treatment is not necessary.
Penile angiokeratomas are uncommon but harmless lesions on the penis. They form when blood vessels near the skin become wider.
Angiokeratomas appear as tiny, bright red bumps in clusters. They can form at any time, but they become more common as people age.
These bumps generally do not cause symptoms, and treatment is usually not necessary. Some people wish to remove them for cosmetic reasons, and a doctor can provide more information.
A mole is a skin growth that is usually black or brown. Moles can form on the penis or any other part of the body.
Over time, moles slowly change or disappear. Those that get larger, become irregularly shaped, or feel rough may become cancerous, so it is important for a doctor to check these out. Painful or bleeding moles also require investigation.
The majority of moles are harmless, however, and do not require treatment. Anyone who wishes to have a mole removed — for cosmetic or health related reasons — should see a dermatologist.
Cysts are fluid-filled bumps that feel firm. They are the same color as the skin and may cause some sensitivity, although they are typically not painful to the touch.
Cysts may temporarily get bigger, but they should then shrink and go away within a few weeks. Popping cysts can cause infection, so avoid doing this.
Some cysts remain large and disrupt a person's daily routine. If this is the case, a doctor may decide to remove the cyst, either surgically or by draining it.
The cause is not known, but it typically occurs after injury or repetitive bending of an erect penis. This causes scar tissue to form.
Peyronie's disease is not contagious. It most commonly occurs in people aged 45–60. Symptoms include:
- a hard lump or band at the shaft of the penis, due to a buildup of scar tissue
- bent erections
- pain during erections
These symptoms may make having sex more difficult.
Some treatments include injectable medications, the use of devices to stretch the penis, or penile implants.
Lichen planus is an itchy rash that develops when the immune system attacks skin cells. It causes flat, purple-red bumps to form on the penis or other parts of the body, including the inner arms, wrists, or ankles.
Other symptoms of lichen planus include:
- blisters that ooze then scab over
- painful, lacy-white sores in the mouth
Lichen planus is not contagious.
Mild cases often respond well to home care, including taking oatmeal baths, applying cool compresses, and using an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.
More serious cases may require prescription medication.
Genital warts are small, bumpy growths that appear on the shaft or head of the penis or under the foreskin. They may cause itching and discomfort.
Before HPV vaccines, 340,000–360,000 people in the United States sought treatment for genital warts every year. Around 1% of sexually active adults in the U.S. have genital warts at any given time.
Treatment includes topical creams or surgical removal. The warts will likely return in the future, however, as there is no cure for the HPV virus.
Symptoms include itchy, painful blisters on the penis.
People should avoid touching the sores, as this could cause them to spread to other parts of the body. Also, refrain from sexual activity with other people during outbreaks.
There is no cure for herpes, but medications can prevent or shorten outbreaks. Some medicines can reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to sexual partners.
Syphilis is another STI. In the initial stage, it can cause painless sores or ulcers to form on the penis.
These sores last
If a person does not receive treatment, syphilis can cause serious health problems.
This viral skin infection causes clusters of small, smooth, and firm bumps to form on the skin. When molluscum contagiosum affects the genitals or groin, doctors consider it to be an STI.
While the bumps often go away without treatment after 12–18 months, the person may be able to pass on the infection for several years.
Doctors often recommend removing the lesions through surgery, freezing, or medication. This will help prevent the person from passing on the infection.
Scabies is a contagious skin condition that develops when Sarcoptes scabiei mites burrow into the skin. It can affect many areas of the body, including the penis.
Sexual contact and having multiple sexual partners
- tiny blisters or bumps on the skin that occur in thin, irregular lines
- intense itching, especially at night
Symptoms can take up to
Treatment involves medication to kill the mites. Also, home remedies, such as cool compresses and over-the-counter antihistamines, can reduce discomfort until the infection clears up.
- 2,080 new cases of penile cancer
- 410 deaths from penile cancer
- an abnormal lump on the penis that may become larger and redder
- burning during urination
- skin thickening
- swelling around the penis
- unusual penile discharge
Treatment varies, depending on the stage of the cancer. Options include foreskin removal, chemotherapy, or surgical removal of cancerous tissue.
A person should see a doctor if any new lump or growth forms on their penis, especially if it does not go away within 4 weeks or it changes. Even if the lump does not cause symptoms, a doctor should examine it.
See a doctor sooner if other symptoms accompany the lump, including:
- burning during urination
- fever or chills
- foul-smelling or unusual penile discharge
- increased urinary frequency or urgency
- open sores in the genital region
- painful erections or ejaculations
- unexplained weight loss
In most cases, a lump on the penis is not a cause for concern. It is usually a pimple, a normal structure such as the Tyson glands, or a common condition such as Fordyce spots.
Because a lump on the penis can suggest a more serious condition, such as an STI or penile cancer, see a doctor if any lumps or bumps persist for more than a few weeks, if they get worse, or if other symptoms develop.