1 in 5 men will be affected by pearly penile papules (PPP) during their lifetime. Whilst this condition can be stressful and embarrassing, one saving grace is that this is not a sexually transmitted disease and, whilst being unsightly, will not cause you any further health implications.
When pearly penile papules are first discovered a lot of men become alarmed, thinking that they have an STI. PPP are commonly mistaken for genital warts or herpes. In fact, the difference is quite clear. Pearly penile papules are little, skin coloured bumps that are at the top and around the penis. The most common place for them to be discovered is on the glans, or head, of the penis (you might have to pull your foreskin gently back a little to check). The bumps really are tiny and, as the name would lead you to believe, almost pearly in appearance.
Genital warts, on the other hand, are larger, often uneven textured bumps. They can be found all over the genital area, including the anus, thighs, groin, and on oral areas, like the mouth and lips. Unlike pearly penile papules that are reasonably flat and round in shape, genital warts and are more like fleshy bumps that can feel quite loose. However, don’t be tempted to pick at any lumps and bumps you find and always seek professional treatment.
Unlike genital warts, PPP are harmless. Not only will they not affect your health, but you can relax your mind in the knowledge that they will not harm the health of others that you come into contact with either. However, it is still of the utmost importance that you do get an STI check up when you first discover PPP. Do not be led into self-diagnosing yourself at home using the internet, as this is not reliable. When you first find PPP you should have a sexual health test to
- confirm that they are PPP (self-diagnosis is not always accurate) and
- that you are not carrying any other STIs.
If the test is clear, apart from noncontagious PPPs, this is not to say that you should stop using protection when you have sex as you might still then end up with an STI.