What are they?
Pearly penile papules (PPP), also known as genital angiofibromas or hirsutoid papillomas, are benign growths occurring on the male genital organ (and, sometimes, on the female genital organs as well). While they are often asymptomatic, they can become more visible if they grow in size and change their colour, becoming pearly and flesh-coloured. PPP affect 20-30% of the general male population.
Pearly penile papules do not pose a threat to your overall health. They are just a cosmetic defect, and in some cases they may disappear on their own.
What are the symptoms?
PPPs are small, round growths measuring roughly 1mm each. Their colour can range from pale pink to pearly white. They usually occur on the head of the penis in men, or in the vulva in women. They are not contagious, and they are not associated with irritations or infections.
How are they diagnosed?
They can be diagnosed with a simple physical examination done by a specialist, who will also rule out the possibility of other STDs, such as genital warts or molluscum contagiosum (which can cause itching and infections), with a peniscopy.
What causes them?
It is not known what causes this condition as of yet. The good news is that PPPs are not a sign of an STD, nor of a bacterial or fungal infection.
How are they treated?
Even if they may cause some embarrassment in men, pearly penile papules are not a threat to your health - they may just be regarded as aesthetically displeasing. As of yet, available treatments aim at improving the appearance of the genital area.
The most effective techniques to remove PPP include:
CO₂ laser: it vaporises all the papules in a single session, in less than 30 minutes
Electrodessication: by using a tiny electrical needle, each papule is destroyed by an electrical shock. This procedure has no side effects
Cryotherapy: by using liquid nitrogen, the papules are dried off and will then naturally fall off
Curettage: surgical removal of the affected area.
Which doctor should I talk to?
If you have PPPs, you should see a dermatologist, an andrologist or a gynaecologist.