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Red dots on your penis? 6 possible causes and how to treat it

This is usually easy to fix with a few small lifestyle changes or even medication.

Written by
Lucinda Starr
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
April 23, 2024
min read
Red dots on your penis? 6 possible causes and how to treat it
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Are you noticing red dots on your penis? This can be a pretty daunting and confusing situation.

You must suspect you've caught a sexually transmitted infection like genital herpes or you might also be dealing with a funky junk smell that won't go away. And chances are, bringing this topic up with your mates at the pub is likely the last thing on your mind.

But don't worry, many causes of red dots on your penis are easy to fix with a few small lifestyle changes or even medication.

Keep reading to discover the top causes of red penis spots, along with a handy guide on what treatment options are available, too.

Should I be concerned about red dots on my penis?

Let's face it: a red, spotty, inflamed, or painful penis isn't ideal. Luckily, most of the time, it's not something to lose sleep over. In fact, one of the top reasons for red dots on penis is poor hygiene.

Did you know that 60% of men actually aren't washing their penises correctly [1]?

There's no judgement from us, but it's important to say that under washing (and even sometimes overwashing) your junk can potentially lead to red spots and infections.

Another reason, and probably your top concern, is genital herpes. This sexually transmitted infection often leads to red spots on the penis. This STI gets a pretty bad rep, known for not yet having a 'cure'. But it's actually super common with up to 80% of Aussies carrying at least one strain of the herpes simplex virus [2], and the symptoms are very treatable.

Generally speaking, these red spots aren't a cause for concern. But it's always good to rule out conditions like penile cancer, which can present with similar symptoms.

What causes red spots on the penis?

There are plenty of reasons you might be seeing spots on the penis, from poor hygiene to dermatitis and even genital herpes. Let's explore the most common causes for these spots as well as some ways to differentiate between these conditions.

Yeast infection

Despite its reputation, yeast infections don't just affect women. But yeast infections in men and women share similar common symptoms such as an itchy rash, pain when urinating, and discharge. For men, that discharge will come from your penis and often collects under the foreskin. You may also experience difficulty pulling back your foreskin — ouch.

If that wasn't bad enough, sometimes yeast infections will cause your foreskin to swell and crack as a result of an allergic reaction [3], so it's best to get this treated ASAP.

Pearly papules

Had spots on your penis since adolescence? The most common cause of this is called pearly penile papules (PPP), and these spots are actually benign. PPP bumps on your penis are completely harmless but can often be distressing due to their appearance.

How do you know if you have PPP? Well, unlike other medical conditions, these bumps are dome-like and uniform spots that are generally oriented in 1 or 2 rows around the penis [4].

Poor hygiene

Poor hygiene can cause itchiness, dryness, and rashes around the genital area. It may then present itself as dark waxy plaques on the skin if the right lifestyle changes aren't made.

Skin conditions caused by this are referred to as dermatitis neglecta. Yep, it's what it sounds like: you're neglecting your pecker, and you may not even know it, as poor hygiene can take some months to appear on the skin.

Remember, even if you are washing daily, poor quality of your hygiene products (such as harsh soaps) can also irritate genital skin and over-washing or prolonged rubbing when showering can also create skin issues down there.

Genital herpes

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that often can cause red spots on the penis. As you probably know, is caused by skin-to-skin contact with someone who is carrying the herpes simplex virus.

You may also notice red spots around the thighs, buttocks, scrotum and the pubic area at the base of the penis. If oral sex has been performed, you may also see red bumps inside your mouth.

Other symptoms include general pain, itchiness and ulcers in the area [5].

Sure, there's no permanent cure, but it doesn't mean the end of your sex life. Genital herpes, and STIs generally are more common than you may think. All it takes is a trip to your GP to get a proper diagnosis and find out which treatment is right for you.

Fordyce spots

Generally, these spots are fleshed coloured but can be tiny white or yellow spots on the penis head, shaft or foreskin. These spots on the penis are actually just enlarged sebaceous glands.

Basically, all that means is that the oil glands on your penis have a larger appearance. While we're not exactly sure why they occur, possibly genetic, possibly biological or environmental, these spots are totally harmless and are no cause for concern.

Balanitis spots

These spots occur due to irritation of the penis head, and can often be caused by poor hygiene or similar irritations. Plus they tend to be more common in those who are uncircumcised [6].

Symptoms include a burning sensation when urinating, fluid buildup underneath the foreskin and pain or inability to pull back the foreskin.

Skin conditions

Skin conditions such as contact dermatitis, genital psoriasis, and genital eczema can also cause red spots on or around the penis. These conditions often also cause your penis skin to feel dry and itchy, with the possibility of creating pus-filled lumps and red streaks.

How to treat red spots on the penis

Noticing red spots on your penis can come as a bit of a shock. Luckily there are so many simple explanations for why they're there.

Because many different conditions can produce very similar symptoms, it's always important to seek the appropriate medical advice if you notice any changes down there.

Ready to get things sorted out? Let's explore what some of the expected treatment options for the above conditions may be.

Yeast infection treatment options

Improving hygiene and wearing loose clothing may help treat a yeast infection. But sometimes, these itchy bumps don't go away on their own.

In this case, seek treatment from a doctor. You'll likely be prescribed antifungal creams or even oral medication.

Pearly papules treatment options

These totally normal bumps on the genital area don't require treatment and can often disappear over time.

It's normal to feel distressed over the appearance of these lumps, and if they're particularly concerning to you, your doctor may discuss options to remove them, such as laser therapy.

Poor hygiene treatment options

This is one of the easiest types of red bumps to treat and a great place to start whenever you see red bumps on your penis.

Making sure you maintain adequate hygiene habits (but are not overdoing it), particularly in the genital area, can help see these spots disappear quickly.

Because these spots are common in men who play sports frequently, washing after a good sweat session is important to reduce the chance of these spots developing into a skin infection.

Genital herpes treatment options

Keeping the affected areas dry and using warm water and mild soap while showering can help relieve uncomfortable symptoms.

While there isn't a cure yet available, you should still seek prompt treatment as symptoms can be mitigated.

At Pilot, we offer online consultations with Aussie practitioners so you can talk through your diagnosis and get your herpes treatment plan delivered to you every 2 months, ensuring you never have to endure the awkward GP visits and waits in the chemist line.

Pilot’s clinical herpes treatment will help you navigate herpes by maximising protection, reducing the risk of transmission to your partner and lowering the frequency of outbreaks.

It's also important to remember to reach out to sexual partners to let them know that they may be at risk of contracting herpes.

Fordyce spots treatment options

This skin condition doesn't require any treatment, but your doctor may recommend laser removal if you find the appearance of these red bumps on your penis distressing.

Balanitis spots treatment options

In some cases, you may be able to reduce or completely eradicate balanitis spots by practising good hygiene, using a mild but effective soap, and keeping the area as dry as possible.

However, if sore skin persists, your doctor may prescribe topical antibiotics, antifungal creams, or steroid creams.

Conditions like these can be uncomfortable but not harmful. But, because they present many of the same symptoms of other conditions like jock itch (ringworm on the penis), pubic lice, and scabies, it's important to always to seek medical advice, especially when changes to the skin occur.

Think you might have one of the above conditions? While seeking medical advice may feel embarrassing, it's important to remember that all of these conditions are completely normal and common in men, and medical professionals are there to help.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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