Penis problems & solutions 

I think I have genital warts, Fordyce spots and pearly penile papules on my penis.

Q: I have something that I'm sure shouldn't be there, growing around the edge of my glans penis. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that they were genital warts, except for the fact that I haven't had sex yet. And don't tell me they are Fordyce spots, since I know what they look like. I've got plenty of those, too. Plus the odd pearly penile papule.

A: These are probably pearly penile papules. Here are some illustrations to make sure you're clear about the difference. You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Fordyce spots can form anywhere on the penis.

Pearly penile papules growing around the glans of the penis.

Genital warts can form anywhere on the penile skin (or indeed any skin around the genitals or anus of either sex).

So - what causes these blemishes of the penile skin? All of them can cause great distress to their owners, leading to embarrassment, shame and avoidance of sex. The ironic thing is that they are all common, normal, and except for the genital warts, not sexually transmitted. 

Genital warts are the skin's response to infection with human papilloma virus or HPV. You can get HPV from a sexual partner, but it won't always produce warts, and it may be several months before the warts develop if you are infected, so you may not know where you got the infection if you've had a number of partners.

 Generally the warts are simple lesions of the penile skin, which may look unattractive but can usually be dealt with fairly easily - for example, by burning off with a laser or chemical solutions.

Once you've got the virus, you've probably got it for life, and you will be able to pass it on to your sexual partners through skin to skin contact. Obviously use of a condom can help to cut down on transmission. The warts can also occur on the skin of the scrotum and around the anus - this is associated with anal sex, as you may have guessed.

Genital warts are considered a sexually transmitted disease. They are in fact one of the most common such infections, since about one person in ten has been infected with HPV at some point in their lives. They are highly infectious, too. Two out of three people who have sex with a person with warts will be infected with HPV.

You can recognize genital warts from their color - pink to brown - and texture. Warts on the penile shaft can be as small as 1 to 3 mm. Any raised, rough or unusual skin may be a wart: the best course of action is to have anything you are suspicious about checked out by your doctor.

See e-medicine for more information, or do an image search on Google.

Fordyce spots are the most common cause of distressed emails to us, from young men about their penises. Though these little white or yellow spots never go away, older men seem much more relaxed  about them, presumably having learnt to live with them (and having discovered that their sexual partners don't mind them).

It's probably true to say that every man has them (some women, too), and generally they are fairly innocuous. In some cases, though, they may be widespread and disfiguring. This can be a source of great embarrassment to the owner of the penis in question! But what are they? The answer is that they are sebaceous glands. These are the glands that produce oils on the skin, but Fordyce spots are of a kind localized on the skin of the penis and testicles.

The cause of the over-activity of these glands is unknown, though two obvious suggestions are the abundance of testosterone in young men or a genetic influence (though it's a bit hard to establish this as you may not want to ask your father if his penis is covered in little white spots.....or ask your mother if her father had a penis with white or yellow spots on it!)

There is no cure, none at all. You just have to learn to live with them. You can read more if you wish to on the internet, for example here. 

Finally, minor variations of the blood vessels under the skin can produce small red or purple spots on their penis - especially on the glans - but these are not Fordyce spots!

Pearly penile papules are still a mystery - that is to say, no-one knows why they develop. They are associated with the cells that form fibrous tissue in the skin, but that doesn't help explain what causes them.

Many men who have them - and they are very common - think they have a sexually transmitted disease, which is the main reason most men who have them go to their doctor. Fortunately they can be removed with laser treatment, electro-cauterization, or surgery, so there's no need to suffer in silence if you have them and the appearance of your penis is bothering you. More information from e-medicine.

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Other pages of penile problems

Problems with the glans
Penile warts, papules & spots
Penis and sex problems
Erection problems
My ejaculation is weak
Retractile testicles
More on Peyronie's disease
Premature ejaculation
On premature ejaculation