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Pearly Penile Papules: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, How Long Does It Last?

What are Pearly Penile Papules?

Pearly Penile Papules refers to minute growths that develop at the head of the penis. They are normally white in color with sometimes a pinkish tinge to it. These growths can develop in any male but are absolutely benign in nature and are considered completely harmless. Hirsutoid Papilloma is the medical term given to Pearly Penile Papules.[1]

Pearly Penile Papules are generally small but in some cases they can grow as well indicating that the size of the papules are variable and differ from individual to individual. Normally at maximum they can grow up to 4 mm in diameter similar to small pimples that can be seen in teenagers.[2]

Pearly Penile Papules tend to occur in the shape of a ring or form in clusters around the penile circumference also known as corona.[3] Some individuals tend to mistake these papules as a symptom of a sexually transmitted illness; however, these papules are small when compared to the papules seen with sexually transmitted diseases like genital warts. Moreover, papules due to sexually transmitted diseases are more wide spread and not localized just to the head of the penis.

What are Pearly Penile Papules?

What Is The Cause Of Pearly Penile Papules?

What exactly causes Pearly Penile Papules is something that most physicians are not aware of. They are quite rare and occur in not more than 40% of males in general population. These papules are not formed due to unprotected sexual intercourse and are not considered to be contagious in any way.

Pearly Penile Papules do not cause any damage to the structure or function of the penis and the adjoining areas. Even though the exact cause is not known, Pearly Penile Papules are seen to occur more in African-American population that Native Americans or Hispanics. Additionally, males with uncircumcised penis are more at risk for developing Pearly Penile Papules.[4]

What Are The Symptoms Of Pearly Penile Papules?

There are no symptoms associated with the small growths that are seen with Pearly Penile Papules around the head of the penis. However, if an individual with Pearly Penile Papules develops any symptoms of itching or pain then he needs to consult with a physician as it may be a sign of some other underlying medical condition.

If any individual has indulged in unprotected sex and develops what looks like Pearly Penile Papules but is spread across the penis then it may actually be a case of genital warts which requires treatment. Some of the other medical conditions that resemble Pearly Penile Papules apart from genital warts are molluscum contagiosum and fordyce spots which have their own distinct set of symptoms which need to be addressed and treated.[5]

How is Pearly Penile Papules Treated?

Pearly Penile Papules is a benign condition are does not require any treatment. However, the presence of these small growths may be unsightly and for cosmetic reasons many people visit their physicians for options to remove these growths. There are some treatment approaches to remove these small growths. Some of the ways through which Pearly Penile Papules can be removed are:

Cryosurgery. This procedure involves freezing and then destruction of the affected tissue around the papules. This stops the blood supply to the papules and ultimately shrinks them where they no longer are visible.

Laser Treatment. This approach involves use of laser rays to destroy the affected cells such that the tiny growths are shrunk and ultimately removed.

Radiosurgery. This involves use of radiation to destroy the affected cells causing the growths to fade away and not be visible to the patient.

The above mentioned treatment approaches in almost all the cases are safe but as inherent with any procedure there are certain risks and side effects which need to be thoroughly weighed before embarking on a procedure.

It should be mentioned here that patients with Pearly Penile Papules should not attempt using over the counter creams or lotions generally given for genital warts as they may lead to irritation of the skin which may worsen the clinical picture. It is also advised not to try any home remedies for removal of Pearly Penile Papules as they may do more harm than good.[6]

How Long Pearly Penile Papules Last?

Pearly Penile Papules do not pose any threat to the affected individual and is completely benign in nature. However, these papules once developed do not go away for life. Over time they may fade away to an extent but do not completely disappear, or change in size, shape or color.[7] People can opt to remove these papules surgically with the approaches mentioned above even though very few men actually opt for such as there is no damage to the structure or function associated with Pearly Penile Papules.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 13, 2022

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