White spots on penis and tight foreskin

Dear Alice,

I am a virgin and I've never had any sexual contacts. I have always had, for as long as I can remember, a lot of little white-headed spots on the underside of my penis. I can only assume they are some form of wart -- they are small, few millimeter across, and, if squeezed, sometimes the white head can be removed. I am too embarrassed and worried to see my doctor (she's a woman), but I would like to know what they are before I have sex.

Also, I have a tight foreskin. The reason appears to be a profusion of similar, but much smaller, spots, without heads, on the inside edge of the foreskin that seem to have collected together to form a nonstretchy expanse of skin (almost like scar skin). I should add that none of these symptoms cause any discomfort whatsoever.

Concerned virgin

Dear Concerned virgin,

Your white-headed spots, as you call them, on the underside of your penis could be genital warts. The bumps could also be pearly penile papules which are common, harmless, and not sexually transmitted. Although their cause is not known, pearly penile papules seem to be more common in uncircumcised men. These papules are frequently misdiagnosed as genital warts. A health care provider can provide a diagnosis and recommend the appropriate treatment.

Since you've mentioned a tight foreskin, it's possible you are experiencing a condition known as phimosis. Having phimosis means that the foreskin cannot be retracted fully (or at all) over the head of the penis. If it causes pain during erection, masturbation, or any other activity, a procedure under local anesthesia can be performed by a health care provider.

It's understandable that you feel less comfortable talking to your health care provider about intimate areas of your body, but rest assured that these conversations happen every day. If you feel as though you won't be able to bring this up with your current provider, you could consider switching to someone with whom you feel more comfortable. Remember, health care providers are trained to have knowledge of and experience with men's sexual health issues. Furthermore, if for some reason you need specialized care, they can make an appropriate referral.

Thinking about your first sexual experience certainly can produce all sorts of thoughts and emotions. You've already demonstrated how thoughtful you are by reaching out for advice. You also may benefit from exploring other Q&As in the Go Ask Alice! Relationships and Sexual and Reproductive Health archives.

Take care, have fun, and be safe!

Last updated May 20, 2015
Originally published Oct 18, 1996

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