What Are Pearly Penile Papules?

Medically Reviewed By Roger Bielinski, MD
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Pearly penile papules (PPP) are common pink, white, or skin-colored benign bumps that appear near the head of the penis. They typically appear all the way around the head in one or multiple rows. This article will define PPP. It will also discuss what causes them, how they compare with genital warts, and how to treat them.

What are pearly penile papules?

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PPP are common, benign bumps that appear around the head of the penis. PPP appear in 14–48% of males between adolescence and young adulthood. They are typically more prevalent in those who are uncircumcised. PPP tend to become less noticeable with age.

PPP are dome-shaped bumps that are typically pink, white, or skin-colored. They appear in one or two rows around the head of the penis. PPP are benign bumps, and they have no association with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or reduced hygiene habits. They are not contagious or transmissible

Typically, PPP are nothing to be concerned about and require no treatment. However, if you are experiencing PPP and have concerns, contact your doctor.

Learn 10 things doctors want you to know about sexual health.

What causes pearly penile papules?

PPP are a typical skin variant. There is no known specific cause for them. They are not associated with any kind of STI or lack of hygiene habits.

Doctors do not know yet why some experience PPP and others do not.

Is it pearly penile papules or genital warts?

People generally tend to mistake PPP for genital warts. This can cause a lot of distress for a person experiencing them or for their partners. This misunderstanding can cause psychological difficulty with sexual activity. There are many differences between PPP and genital warts, however.

Genital warts are one of the most common STIs. They are due to the human papillomavirus (HPV). It can take weeks, months, or years for warts to appear after you have sexual contact with someone who has them.

Genital warts typically appear as painless bumps that may be:

  • flat or raised
  • one or many
  • clumped together in the shape of a cauliflower

The appearance is the main way you can tell the difference between PPP and genital warts. PPP are small bumps that circle the head of the penis in rows. While genital warts are bumps that appear anywhere on your penis and tend to be individual or in clumps.

Genital warts are treatable. Treating the warts does not get rid of HPV, however. Typically, your immune system will clear HPV on its own.

You can prevent HPV by getting the vaccine. This may also help lower your risk of developing genital warts. You can also reduce your risk by using a condom or another barrier method when you have sex.

If you think you may have genital warts or may have had sexual contact with someone who has them, contact your doctor right away.

Read 8 surprising facts about STDs.

How do you get rid of pearly penile papules?

Since PPP are benign, do not pose any health risks, and tend to lessen in appearance with age, doctors will typically leave them alone.

It is important not to pick at the papules or try to pop them. And never use any kind of over-the-counter wart remover on your penis. This can cause scarring and injuries to the area.

Doctors typically treat people who experience distress or embarrassment from the appearance of the PPP. However, if you do not experience distress and want treatment, your options include cryotherapy and laser therapy.

Discuss all your options with your doctor so you can make an informed decision on the most effective treatment for your situation.

Q:

Do pearly penile papules affect sexual activity?

Anonymous

A:

Pearly penile papules have no effect whatsoever on the ability to have sexual activity and do not cause any adverse symptoms or problems. However, they can affect sex psychologically when either or both partners may mistake them for an STD or genital warts.

Roger Bielinski, MD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

How can you prevent pearly penile papules?

Since the exact cause of PPP is not known yet, there is no way to prevent them. Most people who experience PPP notice a decrease in their appearance over time.

If you have any new bumps or growths on your penis, contact your doctor. They can check to make sure it is PPP and not another condition that may be serious. They can also discuss any treatment options with you.

Summary

PPP are small dome-shaped bumps that are usually pink, white, or skin-colored. They appear around the head of your penis, typically in one or two rows.

PPP are benign and do not pose any kind of health risk. They are not associated with an STI and cannot be transferred to anyone else. They are also not due to limited hygiene, and they tend to reduce in appearance over time as you age.

If you notice any kind of bumps on your penis that concern you, contact your doctor. Generally, PPP does not require treatment. However, if they cause you distress and embarrassment, treatments like cryotherapy and laser therapy are available. Discuss all your options with your doctor.

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Medical Reviewer: Roger Bielinski, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Jun 30
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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  2. Genital warts. (2020). https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/genital-warts
  3. Love, L. W., et al. (2022). Pearly penile papules. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK442028/
  4. Pearly penile papules. (2020). https://youngmenshealthsite.org/guides/pearly-penile-papules/
  5. What are the symptoms of genital warts? (n.d.). https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/stds-hiv-safer-sex/genital-warts/what-are-symptoms-genital-warts