Pearly penile papules are whitish, yellowish or pinkish bumps that appear in rows around the head of your penis. They aren’t an infection, and they’re not cancerous.
Pearly penile papules (PPP) are harmless rounded or tiny finger-like growths that are found near the head of your penis. They usually appear in rows and look like white spots or even pearls. They may also look yellow or pinkish. They are benign (not cancer). Pearly penile papules are rarely found on the shaft of your penis.
Some people may get worried when they see the papules because they think they aren’t clean enough or might have a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Pearly penile papules are not an STI. However, if you’re sexually active, you probably will want to set up an appointment with your healthcare provider to make sure that the bumps are pearly penile papules and not something else.
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Estimates vary, but as many as 14% to 48% of people with penises throughout the world may experience pearly penile papules over the course of their lifetimes. It’s more common among Black people and people with uncircumcised penises. These bumps often appear during late puberty. Some of the papules may disappear as you get older.
There really are no symptoms except for the development of the bumps. If you do have additional symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider, especially if you're sexually active.
Additional symptoms in the case of bumps on your penis might include:
Researchers don’t know what causes pearly penile papules to form on some penises and not others. Some people believe that they are vestigial parts of the anatomy — parts that once had a purpose but no longer do.
No. You can’t get them from anyone, and you can’t infect anyone else because you have them.
Your healthcare provider probably will be able to diagnose the bumps as pearly penile papules simply by looking at them. The diagnosis can be confirmed by looking at tissue under a handheld microscope-type instrument called a dermatoscope.
It’s a good idea to contact your healthcare provider if you see any type of lumps or skin issues on your penis. Getting a correct diagnosis of pearly penile papules will give you and any sexual partners peace of mind about sexually transmitted diseases. (Sexually transmitted infections, STIs, are the same thing as sexually transmitted diseases, STDs.)
Using a dermatoscope, your provider can clearly tell the difference between pearly penile papules and molluscum contagiosum or genital warts. Unlike pearly penile papules, genital warts are caused by a strain of human papilloma virus, which can be transmitted sexually.
In most cases, pearly penile papules don’t require treatment. They usually have no symptoms, so there’s no need for pain relievers or any types of salves or lotions. In most cases, the reassurance of a trusted healthcare provider that there’s no problem is enough.
There are no recommended home treatments for pearly penile papules. You shouldn’t put toothpaste, castor oil, or acids like lemon juice on the bumps. Most importantly, don’t try cutting off pearly penile papules yourself. If you want the bumps gone, speak to your healthcare provider before trying any of these things.
There are possible complications from treating pearly penile papules with cryotherapy, lasers or excision, including:
You can’t prevent pearly penile papules from forming. Currently, we don’t know why some people have them and some people don’t. The only thing that seems to show up as a factor is circumcision. Pearly penile papules are more common if you’re uncircumcised.
The outlook for pearly penile papules is excellent. This condition isn't serious. There are no health risks to having pearly penile papules.
Take care of yourself as you normally would. Clean your penis as instructed by your healthcare provider. Practice safe sex (using a condom) when you're having sex outside of a monogamous relationship. This isn’t suggested because of pearly penile papules, but this is a general tip to prevent getting or transmitting any type of actual STI.
It’s a good idea to see your healthcare provider if you have any type of sore or bump or unexplained change on the skin of your penis. While pearly penile papules aren’t anything to worry about, you’ll probably feel better if you have this confirmed by your provider.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you find changes on the skin of your penis, you’ll probably want to contact your healthcare provider. However, if the changes are white or pearly spots that rim the head of your penis partly or completely, they're probably pearly penile papules. This condition is completely harmless. It isn’t a sexually transmitted infection, and it’s not cancer. Don’t try to treat any type of change in penis skin by yourself. Talk to your provider before you try anything.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/05/2022.
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