You can tell a lot by taking a close look at your penis. Sometimes you look at it and everything seems perfectly normal. Other times it can feel fraught with danger, covered in lumps, spots, nodules and protuberances that all look like evidence of your certain doom. We’re here to help you separate the facts from the panic attacks.
1. A curved penis
It could be Peyronie’s disease, a condition caused by scar tissue that pulls your penis toward one side.
FIXABILITY: It can be treated with drugs, injections or even surgery, but the third option is for the worst cases, says Dr Larry Lipshultz, a professor of urology at Baylor College of Medicine. If it curves less than 10˚ in either direction and you can still have sex that doesn’t hurt either of you, leave it alone.
2. White, yellowish, or reddish bumps
These are often just enlarged oil glands, called Fordyce spots, says Dr Elizabeth Kavaler, a urology specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital. No treatment is needed, and they typically disappear on their own after a few years. They can resemble an STD, such as the bumps you see with herpes, but aren’t painful or itchy and don’t pop and scab over.
FIXABILITY: Time is all it takes
3. A purple or splotchy penis
An inexplicably purple penis is alarming. It might just be the way your blood vessels react to all the extra blood flowing to the penis during an erection. Or it could be a “rupture of the fibrous layer that surrounds the erectile cylinders,” says urologoist Dr James Kashanian – meaning you’ve fractured your penis via a “significant bending injury” during sex.
FIXABILITY: If you feel a “pop” during sex, followed by bruising or swelling, seek immediate medical attention. As if a penile fracture weren’t bad enough, not getting immediate attention can lead to issues you don’t want to have to deal with, including “significant erectile dysfunction,” says Dr. Kashanian, or “penile deformity”.
4. A small, clear blister
If it pops and scabs over, it’s usually herpes, says Dr Aaron Spitz, author of The Penis Book. “The blisters can also be tender or painful,” he says. “As a general rule, if it’s on your penis and it hurts, call your doctor.”
FIXABILITY: If you see something suspicious, it’s important to get tested right away. If it’s herpes, you can’t rid yourself of the virus; it can lie dormant in you. But you can get antiviral drugs to reduce outbreaks, and using condoms can lower the risk of spreading the infection through sex by 30 per cent.
5. A cauliflower-shaped growth
If there’s no pain or itching, you’re likely dealing with genital warts, says Kavaler. They’re caused by exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV), which will infect around 80 per cent of people in their lifetime and can sometimes lead to penile cancer.
FIXABILITY: “Genital warts do not regress on their own,” says Kashanian. Treatment can include topical lotions, cryotherapy (freezing them off), laser therapy or having them surgically removed. If you’re not going to avoid sex until they’re gone, you’ve got to glove it. “However, the virus can still be transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact,” Kashanian says.