Why Is There a Dark Spot on the Tip of My Penis?
- There are a number of conditions that could cause someone to see dark spots, or any spots at all, on their penis.
- Most conditions that cause penile spots are noncancerous, benign and harmless.
- It's important to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STI) to be sure the spots on your penis aren't transmissible.
Dark spots on the tip of your penis. Fluid-filled lumps. Whitish-yellow dots. These are just a handful of the growths you may find on your member—and Christopher C. Kyle, M.D., a urologist with the Oregon Urology Institute in Eugene, Oregon, has seen plenty.
"A lot of men come to me panicked because they've discovered something on their genitals that doesn't seem normal," Kyle said.
More often than not, these bumps, lumps and discolorations are nothing to worry about.
Most skin symptoms on the penis are benign or noncancerous, and many are harmless, Kyle said. There are a number of different penile skin conditions, however, and it's important to be aware of them as some may require medical attention.
Fordyce spots are small, raised, yellow-gold bumps that form on the foreskin of the penis and scrotum. These bumps are caused by enlarged sebaceous glands, the oil-producing glands of the skin, according to Greg Paczkowski, M.D., a Minneapolis-based primary care physician and founder of the sexual telehealth platform MONA.
"Fordyce spots often appear during our early adolescent and young adult lives," Paczkowski said. "They are completely benign."
Fordyce spots do not require treatment and may fade over time on their own. Cosmetic treatments are available, including topical, oral and laser treatments.
Are you wondering, "Why is there a dark spot on my penis head?" It could be a case of penile melanosis, said Aanand Geria, M.D., the founder of Geria Dermatology in Rutherford, New Jersey.
"Penile melanosis is a benign condition that results in pigmented spots on the penis, particularly the head," Geria said. "This is not dangerous or contagious and there have been no documented cases of cancer resulting from it."
Penile melanosis, aka penile lentiginosis or lentigo, is caused by a buildup of pigment in the skin. It appears as dark brown patches that are significantly darker than the color of the rest of the penis skin.
Penile melanosis is harmless and doesn't require treatment, Geria said. However, if you do wish to have the spots removed, cosmetic treatments may be an option.
"Laser therapy or cryotherapy, [which involves] liquid nitrogen, would be the best treatment options for penile melanosis," Geria said.
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Pearly penile papules
Pearly penile papules are small, rounded bumps that typically appear as "pearly" white spots but can be skin-colored.
"They tend to occur around the corona, or the base of the glans or head of the penis," Paczkowski said.
Pearly penile papules are normal and common and do not require treatment, he said.
However, if they are bothersome, a dermatologist may suggest cosmetic treatments, Geria noted. He mentioned electrodesiccation or CO2 laser as options.
In some cases, penile skin growths signal infection—such as genital warts. Genital warts are a common skin condition that affects an estimated 360,000 people per year.
Genital warts appear as lumps growing on the penis and/or scrotum, Packowski said.
"They are soft and nonpainful and grow slowly alone or in groups," he said.
Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection (STI). They are caused by the low-risk strains HPV 6 and HPV 11, which are different from the kind of high-risk strains that cause cancer, Packowski said.
Genital warts are noncancerous, but they are very contagious. In some cases, genital warts may clear on their own, but removing warts through medicine or certain dermatological treatments can reduce your risk of passing them to a partner, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Whether genital warts disappear or are removed, it doesn't mean the virus has been eradicated. If you have had genital warts, wear a condom during sex to reduce the risk of spreading HPV to your partner.
Melanoma on the penis
In rare cases, the cause of a dark spot on your penis could be penile melanoma, a form of skin cancer. Instances of melanoma on penises are rare, accounting for fewer than 0.1 percent of melanoma cases.
Penile melanoma can occur anywhere on the penis but is most frequently found on the glans.
"[Penile melanoma] may appear as a new mole with a hazy border, almost like a cloud, but dark," Packowski said.
When identifying melanoma, Geria suggests applying the mnemonic A.B.C.D.E.
"It stands for asymmetry, irregular borders, multiple colors, diameter and evolution or changing," Geria said. "If any of these criteria are met, you should see a board-certified dermatologist."
When to seek medical attention for penis skin changes
"Most spots, discoloration and growths you find on your penis are not cancer," Kyle said. "But if you have any concerns, there is no downside to seeing a urologist or dermatologist."
Geria recommends visiting a dermatologist if any penis growth is itchy, painful, bleeding, spreading, changing colors or not healing properly.
Seek regular STI testing if sexually active, regardless of abnormalities on your penis, Paczowski said, because most STIs don't show up as spots on your genitals, and many don't have symptoms at all.
"Even if you're symptom-free, you might still harbor an STI," Paczowski said. "Regularly getting screened, and advocating for your sexual partners to get screened is one of the first steps in protecting yourself and promoting the health of you and your partner."