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?, 

The penis can vary in appearance from person to person, and as such, curiosities and concerns about what is considered “normal” are completely understandable. You’ve taken a great first step by asking him about these bumps and it’s helpful that he has some basic information—specifically, that he was born with them and that they are familiar to him. That said, the only way to know for certain whether he is, as you put it, extra-sensorially endowed or diseased would be for him to see a medical professional.  

Based on your description, these bumps may be a harmless condition known as pearly penile papules, or PPPs, which tends to be more common in uncircumcised people—or people who have foreskin that covers the tip of the penis. The papules usually look like tiny white bumps circling the neck or middle area of the penis. The cause of PPP is unknown. What is known is that the bumps aren't associated with poor hygiene and can't be spread through sexual activity. However, without a proper diagnosis from a health care provider, what the penis bumps are or whether there is an infection remains unclear. 

If you're still concerned or holding back because of these bumps, you may consider asking your partner if they would be comfortable talking with a health care provider. This way, they may accurately identify the condition and be able to address it, if needed. As you navigate your feelings and needs in the relationship, it could also be helpful to have a conversation with your partner and express any concerns you may have. If, however, you notice these bumps becoming red, itchy, or they rupture, you might alert your partner and recommend that they see a health care provider. 

Communicating curiosities, concerns, and pleasures can be key to a healthy sexual relationship as you two continue to explore each other's bodies and may also help you in navigating any future bumps in the road. For more information on how you can keep the lines of communication open, check out the Go Ask Alice! Relating and Communicating archive.  

Last updated Mar 03, 2023
Originally published Feb 01, 1994

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