What are Penile Papules?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2016
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Penile papules are benign growths that develop around the corona of the glans on the penis. They are very common in the general population and a similar condition can develop in women, where the papules show up on the vulva. Also known as pearly penile papules, the growths are rounded and flesh-colored to whitish. Treatment is usually not required, although some patients may pursue treatment because they feel embarrassed about the papules.

Some people mistake penile papules for genital warts or think that the growths are a type of sexually transmitted infection. This is not the case; they can arise in people who are not sexually active and they are not linked to sexual activities. They appear in men of all races and ages and appear to be slightly more common in men who have not been circumcised. Penile papules should not cause pain or discomfort, although the neat rows of small growths may look unpleasant.

A dermatologist can confirm a diagnosis, although many general practitioners are capable of examining and diagnosing this condition as well. The treatment recommendation is usually to leave the growths alone. If a patient wants to treat them, a dermatologist can remove the penile papules in an outpatient procedure with a laser or other technology. The patient will experience some soreness and tenderness following the procedure, but should make a complete recovery within a few days.

Patients who opt to leave their penile papules as they are may want to alert their sexual partners, as misconceptions about benign skin conditions around the genitals can result in confusion. They should let their partners know that the growths are not dangerous, cannot be passed to other people, and are not the result of infection with a sexually transmitted disease. Women with papules on the vulva may want to make similar assurances to their partners.

Occasionally, penile papules are misdiagnosed as genital warts, usually by a doctor with limited experience. Testing can be used to confirm or eliminate a diagnosis of warts if there are questions about the diagnosis. Generally, these growths are very easy to recognize, as they have a distinctive physical appearance separate from that of genital warts, tending to be smaller and more neatly organized. Rather than being clustered and scaly, they are arranged in rows and tend to be formed in discrete bumps, and they are only found in one location on the penis, rather than being distributed across the genitals.

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Post 3

I read something interesting recently where it was proposed that the penile papules are actually a remnant from when our ancestors had spines on their penises.

There are quite a few animals with spines of some kind or another on their genitals, as they use them to signal to the female that it's time for ovulation.

And I believe there are some apes which have them, although not to the extent that other animals, like cats do.

Of course, there's no way to know, but it would explain why they tend to be neatly organized in rows and why they are so common.

Post 2

@irontoenail - It seems like an obvious step to me, with a new partner but I think a lot of people get lost in the moment and don't do it. You should always get a good look at the genitals you're about to "play" with. No matter how much they assure you that they are clean, without demanding a full bill of health from a doctor there's no way to really know.

But if they have something obvious to see down there you will know.

You don't want to go accusing people with things like pearly penile papules of having something wrong with them though. It sounds like it's fairly common and you could miss out on a good thing if you don't know how to tell the difference.

Post 1

If you are a woman (or for that matter, a gay man), it might be worth having a look at some pictures of genital warts (and other signs of STDs) and penile papules online so that you know how to tell the difference.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to protect yourself from certain sexually transmitting diseases (I'm thinking specifically about herpes here) even if you use protection and if you are worried about it you might want to consider simply not having sex with someone who shows signs of disease.

But a penile papule is easily mistaken for something that's infectious and if one in four men have them, then I think it's worth knowing how to tell the difference.

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