What are these white things on my penis? Understanding pearly penile papules

What are these white things on my penis? Understanding pearly penile papules
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Pearly penile papules can be a distressing addition to your penis – one day they weren’t there, and the next you can’t stop staring.

These little bumps, however, are perfectly normal and a natural occurrence. We know – it doesn’t always salve your self-esteem to know this, which is why we have a very direct approach to managing pearly penile papules: vaporise them.

While there is no need for urgent concern, you may prefer your penis without these little pearly penile papules. You’re in luck, because vaporising these papules can happen, especially when you are in the experienced hands of Dr Michael Rich at our Melbourne clinic.

Dr Rich has performed hundreds of pearly penile papule removals over many years and is one of the most experienced doctors in Australia. The lasers he uses are state-of-the-art, there is no scarring, with about a week’s healing time required with some extra TLC.

Pearly penile papules are not genital warts!

But they can look like it, which is disconcerting and may prompt a trip to the doctor. Never fear – pearly penile papules are benign and in many men of a certain age, normal. These papules are not infectious (nor infected), are not a sexually transmitted disease, and are not caused by hygiene issues (breathe out).

What are pearly penile papules?

These little friends appear on the ridge around the head of your penis, in an even row or two around the corona of the glans. The papules range from 1-3mm, and they are typically all the same size. We’re not sure why some men get them and some men don’t, or in fact why some men get them and then they go away on their own. Uncircumcised men get pearly penile papules more often than circumcised men.

Besides the appearance of the pearly penile papules, the papules are symptomless – no pain, no itching, no redness, no inflammation.

Pearly penile papules are:

  1. A normal variant of skin
  2. Found more frequently in uncircumcised men
  3. Men who are circumcised as adults may see their PPPs recede spontaneously
  4. Found in almost half of all men
  5. Found more frequently in African-American men (who are also less frequently circumcised)
  6. Found just as often in European men no matter their heritage
  7. Age most commonly observed is the 30s and 40s, with the incidence decreasing with age

Why do pearly penile papules appear?

We still don’t really know why pearly penile papules appear, but one theory is that there may be remnants of penile spines, found in other primates. The spines in other species bring about greater sexual sensitivity and quicker orgasms, though this doesn’t seem to be the case in men.

Age isn’t a defining factor, but most men report finding pearly penile papules on their penis between the ages of 20 and 40. Some cases have been observed in teenage boys soon after puberty, while many men don’t realise they even have them until later in life.

What else could it be?

You will be examined to ensure pearly penile papules is the correct diagnosis, and that you don’t in fact have another condition that could require different treatment.

  • Genital warts, caused by HPV – the most lookalike of all conditions, though genital warts are not in neat rows like papules, and can appear in other areas besides the corona of the glans
  • Molluscum contagiosum
  • Ectopic sebaceous glands – may also appear on other parts of the penis, more yellow in colour, may exude cheesy substance
  • Lichen nitidus

We can quickly vaporise your pearly penile papules

Dr Rich will use a high-tech laser to vaporise your pearly penile papules at our Melbourne clinic. This treatment destroys the papules completely, your skin will scab over and heal scarlessly, and they will never return.

Does removal hurt? 

Well, yes, there is a little bit of discomfort, but we do apply a local anesthetic to the treatment area and suggest a pain reliever such as panadol post-treatment if required. You need to follow carefully all the post-treatment instructions, including taking the antibiotics that are prescribed, put a short halt on physical contact with the area and call us straight away if you have any issues. It is a laser treatment, so be mindful that you need to treat the area with care.

We vaporise pearly penile papules 
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Please Note:

*With all surgeries or procedures, there are risks. Consult your physician (GP) before undertaking any surgical or cosmetic procedure. Please read the consent forms carefully and be informed about every aspect of your treatment. Surgeries such as liposuction have a mandatory seven-day cooling-off period to give patients adequate time to be sure of their surgery choice. Results may also vary from person to person due to many factors, including the individual’s genetics, diet and exercise. Before and after photos are only relevant to the patient in the photo and do not necessarily reflect the results other patients may experience. Ask questions. Our team of dermatologists, doctors and nurses are here to help you with any of your queries. This page is not advice and is intended to be informational only. We endeavour to keep all our information up to date; however, this site is intended as a guide and not a definitive information portal or in any way constitutes medical advice.

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