How Is Pearly Penile Papules Different From Genital Warts?

Last updated: 2024-01-19

Men think the worst at seeing pearly penile papules (PPP)—the white, yellow, pink or flesh-colored spots appearing at the base of the penis head. They can look like small pimples around 1 to 4 mm in diameter. Sometimes seen as rows of round or finger-like lesions that encircle the rim of the glans, PPP growths are rarely found along the shaft.

PPP is not caused by injury or infection. Around 14% - 48% of males experience it during their lifetime. They occur primarily in older teens and adults, shrink in seniors, and are rarely seen in children. However, due to their appearance, many men fear they're a symptom of a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

However, pearly penile papules are harmless bumps and can appear in any male regardless of race, orientation, or whether he is circumcised. Some studies show that it may just be an anatomical variant.

man looking inside his underwear

Differences Between Pearly Penile Papules and Genital Warts

Often seen in sexually active men, PPP may cause distress and raise concerns about fidelity and hygiene. PPP is different from genital warts but frequently mistaken for them, although the appearance, symptoms, and the areas affected are not the same.

Here are some of the major differences:

  • Causes: PPP has no known cause and is not preventable. Genital warts, on the other hand, are a form of STD with an identified viral origin and are preventable. In 90% of cases, genital warts are caused by low-risk HPV types 6 and 11 strains of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which is different from the virus that causes genital cancer or common warts that appear elsewhere on the body.
  • Transmission: PPP is not contagious. Genital warts, on the other hand, may be transmitted through skin contact during genital, anal, or oral sex. Genital warts appear weeks, months, or years later in areas with contact. Unlike PPP, genital warts are soft, occur as clusters or solitary warts, and can enlarge and spread. Visible or not, genital warts may cause symptoms like a burning sensation, itchiness, bleeding, discharge, and pain in both men and women.
  • Areas Affected: Unlike in PPP, where the growth is at the base of the head of the penis, genital warts can appear on the penis, groin, thigh, and anus in males. PPP is never seen in females, but genital warts can occur around the vulva, inside the vagina, outside the anus, inside the anus, and cervix in females. The same virus can manifest as oral lesions on the lips, throat, and tongue with or without a persistent sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, earache, and hoarseness.

Only 1% of men with PPP have co-existing genital warts; partners of those who tested negative should not worry because these are not contagious. However, men with both genital warts and PPP should seek medical consultation. Surprisingly, some people have the HPV virus but never develop symptoms. 9/10 of infected but asymptomatic cases are virus free after two years, even without treatment.

Treatment Of Pearly Penile Papules

Though PPP is not associated with pain or other symptoms, men who are very embarrassed or have partners who are highly concerned may seek help. Here are some in-clinic options:

  • Heat cauterization,
  • Cryotherapy,
  • CO2 laser ablation,
  • Injection with interferon (an anti-viral drug) and
  • Excision surgery.

These are relatively expensive treatment options, but have been used successfully. Patients usually recover within a week. If you’re looking for a less expensive but just as effective treatment option, consider getting a pearly penile papules removal kit.

The kit contains an electric ionizer vaporizes the spots, similar to the lasers used in med spas but using a different heat source. It is a complete kit that includes a numbing agent so that the bumps can be removed quickly, painlessly, and safely in the comfort of your home. The thin needle heats up and vaporizes the core of the lesion painlessly with minimal injury to the skin. Use only as recommended and strictly follow the instructions. Also, consult a health professional if itchiness, bleeding, painful urination, and other unusual symptoms occur.

couple in bedroom


The next time you see PPP, a benign growth affecting males, know there is no way to avoid it and prevent a recurrence. It is not cancer or STD and is not contagious. Pearly penile papilloma not accompanied by symptoms must be differentiated from genital warts. Genital warts, a form of STD, affect both males and females and affects areas where there is skin-to-skin contact. It may resolve on its own, but symptomatic cases must be treated.

There are several treatment options for PPP in a clinical setting. If you’re looking for a cost-efficient alternative, using a vaporizing gadget at home may be beneficial when used correctly.

Learn more about the PPP KIT

Author: Patrick K.

I earned a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Polytechnique Montreal in 2015. One of my notable achievements during my studies was receiving acclaim for the 'Simplicity of the proposed solution' in a university project. I've always been a 'Do-It-Yourself' type of person, and solving my own pearly penile papules issue was no different. After months of dedicated experimentation with various home remedies for PPP, I developed a safe and effective solution that tackles the problem. The solution has been bundled into the "PPP KIT" and I am happy to share this life changing remedy since 2020!

Reviewed by: Fabiola Garcia

I studied Nursing at the CDI College in Montreal before furthering my education at École Esthétique Avancée, recognized as Quebec's premier private institution for medical aesthetics. I actively contributed to enhancing the safety protocols of the pearly penile papule (PPP) removal procedure by collaborating on the refinement of the 'Aftercare' section within the PPP Kit's step-by-step guide.