Sometimes we look at our bodies in a new light, and notice things that we have never seen before, and we think they are not normal. This often happens with the genital area, partly because it is not easy to compare with other people. If you notice any new lumps or bumps, ask your doctor to check, or go to a genitourinary medicine clinic. This is because any lumps might actually be warts or other conditions, which should be treated.
Lumps and bumps on the penis that are normal
Pearly penile papules are small lumps, about 1–2 mm across. They look like pimples and are all roughly the same size and shape. They are in a row around the margin of the head of the penis, and can be seen when the foreskin is pulled back. In some men they are hardly visible at all, and in others they are quite noticeable. They usually develop in the teens. People often worry that they are warts or an infection, and pick or squeeze them. In fact they are perfectly normal tiny glands. Leave them alone!
Lymphocele. This is a hard swelling that suddenly appears after sexual intercourse or masturbation. It is usually on the shaft of the penis, near the foreskin. It is caused by temporary blockage of the lymphatic channels at the margin of the head of the penis. It will go away on its own, and there are no after-effects.
Lumps and bumps on the penis that are not normal
Genital warts are very common and are caused by a virus. More information about genital warts can be found in the genital infections section.
Molluscum (correct name molluscum contagiosum) are pinkish-white round lumps, each about 1–5 mm in diameter, which are caused by a virus. More in formation about molluscum can be found in the genital infections section.
Lichen nitidus consists of tiny, shiny, flat-topped, flesh-coloured pimples, which are difficult to distinguish from warts. The pimples are usually seen on the shaft of the penis and their cause is a mystery. They may remain the same for years, or may disappear of their own accord. They do not usually need any treatment.
Sores (ulcers) on the glans may be due to genital herpes, an infection caused by a virus, or less commonly the ulcer may be a special form of skin cancer. If an ulcer or ulcers develop, you should consult your doctor without too much delay.
Lumps on the scrotum that are normal
Chicken-skin scrotum. It is normal for the skin of the scrotum to look like the skin of a plucked chicken. This is because the hair follicles on the scrotum are quite far apart and prominent, while the hairs themselves may not be very obvious.
Sebaceous cysts are swollen, blocked grease glands that look like yellowish pimples. They often occur on the skin of the scrotum, and there may be a dozen or more. The skin contains millions of glands that make grease to keep the skin waterproof and in good condition. The openings of these glands easily become blocked, so they become distended with grease. For some reason, the skin of the scrotum seems particularly susceptible to this problem. They are harmless, but if they become infected (red and sore) or you do not like the look of them, a genitourinary clinic will be able to treat them.
Angiokeratoma of Fordyce (or Fordyce's spots) are tiny, bright-red blood-blisters. They usually occur on the scrotum, and there may be lots of them. They are quite common in the late teens, and are normal. Their only problem is that they can be itchy, and may bleed if you scratch them.
Lumps and bumps on the scrotum that are not normal
Genital warts (see genital warts) are discussed in the section on genital infections.
Varicoceles are the result of swelling of the veins around the testis. They often feel like a ‘bag of worms’ and are more noticeable on standing. About 15% of men have a varicoele, usually on the left side.
Lump in the scrotum. A lump attached to the testicle may sometimes be felt through the skin of the scrotum. While many of these are harmless cysts, occasionally a lump may be due to the development of testis cancer. If you do find a lump in your scrotum you should consult your doctor who will usually refer you to a urologist. Most tumours of the testis are curable (that is, they do not come back), if removed early. For more information see our section on Swellings, lumps and enlarged testicle(s).
Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn Last updated:
Tuesday, April 2nd 2013
For more information, Dr Phil Hammond discusses 'plums', 'peas' and varicocele in his Expert guide to scrotal lumps video below.