Bumps around penis?

Dear Alice,

I've recently started a relationship with this guy, and it turns out that he has a very unusual penis (at least it’s unusual to me!). The ridge that exists where the head meets the shaft is ringed by these little bumps, very uniform in size and natural looking. He says that he was born with them and that they are sensitive to touch. I've never seen or heard about anything like it in my life, so I have to wonder. Is he just extra-sensorially endowed or is he diseased?

What's a normal penis?

Dear What's a normal penis?,

Bumpy or not, it's not easy to say what a normal penis should look like. Pencil thin, large headed, short and round, girthy, and many more descriptions apply to many body parts, including the penis, as bodies may vary widely from person to person. Additionally, depending on where people are born, their religion, their family's preferences, or other factors, some penises might be circumcised or not. With this much variation, concerns may understandably arise surrounding the bumps on newly revealed penises possibly leading to future bumps down the road for your health.

Without a proper diagnosis from a health care provider, what the penis bumps are remains unclear. From your description though, they may be a harmless condition known as pearly penile papules, or PPPs, which seems to be more common in uncircumcised men in their 20s and 30s. The papules usually look like tiny white bumps circling the neck or middle area of the penis. The cause of PPP is unknown, but the bumps aren't associated with poor hygiene and can't be spread through sexual activity. On the other hand, many other things may cause the bumps, from STI's like human papillomavirus (HPV) or syphilis to something as common, non-life threatening and not contagious such as psoriasis or eczema. As your partner pointed out, sometimes they occur naturally and don't warrant any kind of treatment.

If your partner reports that they're sensitive, is this a possible bonus in the bedroom? Perhaps you'll want to take matters into your own hands and find out for yourself. If you're still concerned or holding back because of these bumps, you two might want to consider visiting a health care provider who may accurately identify the condition and give you more information and resources for a healthy, happy, and worry-free sex life. It's recommended to see a health care provider if these bumps become red, itchy, or rupture.

As you two explore each other's bodies, among many other aspects, consider continuing to communicate curiosities, concerns, and pleasures. Keep asking your partner about his body, and hopefully he may do the same with you — communication's a valuable tool in any healthy relationship!

Last updated Oct 06, 2014
Originally published Feb 01, 1994

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