Common penis problems

7 min

There are several conditions that can cause problems with your penis. 

Some conditions may cause pain or discomfort, impact the function of your penis, or alter the appearance of your penis. If you notice or experience anything unusual, you should make an appointment to see your doctor.  

Balanitis and balanoposthitis

What are balanitis and balanoposthitis?

Balanitis is inflammation of the head of the penis and balanoposthitis is inflammation of both the head and the foreskin of the penis.

Balanitis affects between one in three to just over one in 10 men at some point in their lives. It most commonly occurs in (one in 25) boys under four  years of age and (one in 30) uncircumcised men.

Balanoposthitis only affects uncircumcised men and occurs in about one in 17 of them.
 

What causes balanitis?

Fungal infection is the overall most common cause of balanitis, but the irritation of the head of the penis is the most common cause of mild cases of the disease. 
 

What treatments are there for balanitis and balanoposthitis?

Applying an antifungal cream is the usual treatment for balanitis. 

Learn more

Learn more about balanitis and balanoposthitis here.

Fordyce spots

What are Fordyce spots?

Fordyce spots are small (1-5 mm) pale spots that can be found on your penis and scrotum. Fordyce spots are a type of sebaceous gland (small glands usually associated with hair follicles that produce sebum, the oily substance that helps to protect the skin). 

About four out of five people have Fordyce spots on their genitals and/or mouths. They usually first appear at puberty.
 

What causes Fordyce spots?

Fordyce spots are a normal part of your body. They are not a cause or consequence of disease. 
 

What treatments are there for Fordyce spots?

Fordyce spots don’t need to be treated because they’re a normal part of your body.

Learn more about Fordyce spots here.

Fractured penis

What is penile fracture?

A penile fracture occurs if one or both corpora cavernosa (the tube-like chambers of erectile tissue  in your penis that fill with blood when you get an erection) rupture through the tunica albuginea (connective tissue that surrounds the chambers) when your erect penis is knocked or forced to bend.

Penile fracture is rare. It is unknown exactly how many men experience a fractured penis, but it probably occurs in one in 10,000 to one in 100,000 men.
 

What causes penile fracture?

Vigorous sexual activity is usually the cause of penis fracture.
 

What treatments are there for penile fracture?

A fractured penis usually needs to be repaired surgically. 

Learn more

Learn more about penile fracture here.

Genital warts

What are genital warts?

Genital warts usually appear as a group of small, raised bumps on the shaft or tip of the penis. However, you may also get a single wart. Genital warts range in colour and size and may be rounded or flat, smooth or rough.

The incidence of genital warts is highest in young men aged 25-29 years.
 

What causes genital warts?

Genital warts are caused by human papillomavirus, which is passed easily between people through skin-to-skin contact.
 

What treatments are there for genital warts?

Genital warts can be frozen, ‘burned’ or cut off by your doctor. There are some medications that can be applied directly to warts that may help them go away. 

Genital warts will go away on their own eventually, even if they’re not treated. However, human papillomavirus remains in the body, so warts may reappear.

There is a vaccine available to prevent infection. The vaccination doesn’t treat an existing infection, so it must be given before you’re exposed to the virus to be effective.

Learn more

Learn more about genital warts here.

Lichen sclerosis

What is lichen sclerosis?

Lichen sclerosis in men (also known as balanitis xerotica obliterans, or BXO) is a skin disorder characterised by white patches on the head and foreskin of the penis.

Lichen sclerosis affects around one in 250-1,000 boys (average age of seven years) and up to around one in 1,000 men.
 

What causes lichen sclerosis?

Lichen sclerosis is usually caused by long-term irritation and inflammation of the foreskin and head of the penis. Over time, the irritation and inflammation can lead to accumulation of scar tissue.
 

What treatments are there for lichen sclerosis?

Treatment of lichen sclerosis usually involves the application of steroid cream for two to three months. 

Learn more

Learn more about lichen sclerosis here.

Pearly penile papules

What are pearly penile papules?

Pearly penile papules are painless, dome-shaped bumps that usually occur in one or more rows along the corona (the rounded border where the head of the penis meets the shaft). They can be flesh-coloured or white, and can look like small pimples or skin tags.

Pearly penile papules are present in between one in seven to almost half of all men.
 

What causes pearly penile papules?

We don’t know why some men have pearly penile papules while others don’t. They are less common in men who are circumcised than those who are not.

Pearly penile papules usually appear towards the end of puberty and become less common with aging.
 

What treatments are there for pearly penile papules?

Pearly penile papules don’t need treatment because they’re a normal part of male anatomy.

Learn more

Learn more about pearly penile papules here.

Peyronie’s disease

What is Peyronie’s disease?

Peyronie’s disease is a disorder of the tunica albuginea (connective tissue that surrounds the erectile tissue in the penis). This results in a curve or bend in the penis when it’s erect.

Peyronie’s disease occurs in around 3% of men, becoming more common with increasing age.
 

What causes Peyronie’s disease?

The most likely cause of Peyronie’s disease is repeated damage to the penis during sexual activity, although many men do not recall any event before noticing the disease.
 

What treatments are there for Peyronie’s disease?

Surgery is the best way to treat Peyronie’s disease.

Learn more

Learn more about Peyronie’s disease here.

Phimosis

What is phimosis?

Phimosis

Phimosis is a condition in which the foreskin cannot be pulled back over the glans (head) of the penis. 

Phimosis can be normal (physiological) as it is present in almost all newborn babies. As boys age, their foreskin becomes progressively easier to retract over the glans. By adulthood, physiological phimosis affects between one in 200 and just over one in eight men. 

However, phimosis can be a concern if it is pathological and causes problems with sexual function or pain or is caused by other health problems. The incidence of pathological phimosis in adult males is unknown but is expected to be high in uncircumcised men.
 

What causes phimosis?

Phimosis in babies and young boys is due to normal development. The foreskin and glans of the penis are fused together as they develop and gradually separate after birth.

Scarring of the foreskin from injury, infection, inflammation, or skin conditions like lichen sclerosis, can lead to phimosis.
 

What treatments are there for phimosis?

If you or your child has phimosis, gently retracting the foreskin can help resolve the condition. Steroid creams can be effective for treating phimosis.

Learn More.

Learn more about phimosis here.

Foreskin problems and circumcision

The foreskin is a roll of skin that covers the end of the penis. When you’re born, the penis has a foreskin. People who have been circumcised have had their foreskin removed for cultural, religious, medical, or aesthetic reasons. 

If you do have a foreskin, it’s important to look after it. If it becomes difficult to pull back, red, swollen, inflamed, or develops lumps, it’s a good idea to see a doctor, to make sure you avoid any long-term damage.

Learn more about foreskin problems and circumcision here.

Penis lumps

There are many different types of lumps and bumps that might appear on your penis, including a cyst, pimple or ulcer.

Just like for any other part of your body, if you notice anything unusual about the appearance of your penis, or if you experience any pain, you should make an appointment to see your doctor.

Learn More

Learn more about penis lumps here.

Keywords

Bent penis
Broken penis
Bruised penis
Curved penis
Fractured penis
Penis health
Penis pain
Penis shrinkage

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