What Causes Cysts to Form on The Penis, and How are They Treated?

Tips for identification

If you develop an unexpected bump or lesion on your penis, make an appointment with your doctor.

Although cysts usually aren’t cause for concern, STD-related bumps may need immediate treatment to prevent further complications.


Cysts are bumps that feel firm or hard to the touch. They also have the following characteristics:

  • same color as your skin or slightly discolored
  • same texture as the surrounding skin
  • no pain when touched, but may feel tender or sensitive
  • rarely change size or shape, but may grow slightly over time

If a cyst bursts, the area may become sore, inflamed, or infected.

If an infection occurs, the area will be extremely sore. You may also develop a high fever and feel fatigued.

STD-related bumps

Cyst-like bumps are a common symptom of genital herpes and HPV.

The main differences between cysts and STD-related bumps include:

  • How many bumps there are. Cysts are larger and appear alone. Bumps associated with herpes and other STDs often appear in clusters of small bumps.
  • How they change over time. Cysts may never change in size, but some grow over time. Bumps from STDs may come and go periodically, bringing pain and other symptoms.
  • How they feel to the touch. Cysts are often hard and don’t cause pain when touched. Bumps from STDs are much softer and may burst or cause pain when you touch them.

In addition to bumps, STD symptoms may include:

  • unexplained itchiness in your genital area
  • cloudy, white, or yellow discharge
  • smelly discharge
  • pain or discomfort while urinating or having sex
  • swollen penis or testicles
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • fever
  • sore throat
  • fatigue

What can cause a cyst to form, and who’s at risk?

Most cysts can develop anywhere on your body. Your symptoms may be the result of one of the following:

Sebaceous cyst. This type of cyst develops when your oil-producing sebaceous glands are blocked or damaged. This may result from an underlying condition or injury to the area. They’re usually harmless and don’t need treatment.

Epidermoid cyst. Keratin growth in a sebaceous gland can result in an epidermoid cyst. They’re usually harmless, but they may grow to be several inches, which can be uncomfortable. These should be removed if they get too big.

Penile epidermal inclusion cyst. This is a rare complication of circumcision. Hard tissue can build inside these cysts and make them grow, potentially causing pain or discomfort. These should be removed.

Median raphe cyst. This type of cyst is congenital. This means that the cyst developed while you were still in the womb. They occur if penis tissue becomes trapped near the median raphe nerve of the penis, though this is uncommon. They’re typically harmless and usually don’t cause symptoms.

How are cysts and cyst-like bumps diagnosed?

Your doctor may be able to diagnose a cyst simply by looking at it.

They may also take a sample of tissue from the cyst (biopsy) and send it to a laboratory for analysis. This can confirm the diagnosis and make sure the cyst isn’t harmful or cancerous.

If your doctor suspects that you have an STD, they may recommend:

  • Blood tests. Your blood will be drawn and analyzed for high antibody levels that indicate an STD.
  • Urine tests. You’ll pee into a sample container, and the urine will be sent to a lab for STD analysis.
  • Swab tests. You or your doctor swab the inside of your penis for a fluid sample, which will be sent to a lab for STD analysis.

Is treatment necessary?

Most penis cysts are harmless and don’t need treatment.

If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort, you should:

  • Keep the area clean with warm water and antibacterial soap.
  • Apply a warm, wet washcloth to the area for about 25 minutes, three to four times a day. This well help the cyst drain.
  • Cover the cyst with a bandage if it starts leaking fluid. Change the bandage every day.

You shouldn’t ever try to pop a cyst. This can cause the cyst tissue to get infected. If an infection develops, you may develop a high fever and feel fatigued.

See your doctor if you suspect infection. They’ll prescribe antibiotics, such as cloxacillin (Cloxapen) or cephalexin (Keflex) to help ease your symptoms.

Does the cyst need to be removed?

Surgical removal usually isn’t necessary, but it’s an option. Some people choose to have them removed for aesthetic reasons.

Cyst removal surgery is a quick outpatient procedure, meaning you won’t have to stay overnight in a hospital. To remove a cyst, your doctor will perform these steps:

  1. Apply local anesthesia to numb the area.
  2. Clean the penis with betadine or similar chemicals.
  3. Make a small cut on the skin above the cyst.
  4. Use a scalpel or similar instrument to remove connective tissue around the cyst.
  5. Use forceps to lift the cyst out of the penis.
  6. Close the cut with dissolvable stitches.

Depending on the size of the cyst, removal can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a full hour. You can usually go home a few hours after surgery.

Your penis skin is thin, so you’ll probably have a small scar.


Your doctor will wrap your penis in a bandage dressing after the procedure. You should change the dressing every 12 hours or so, or however often your doctor recommends.

They’ll also walk you through what to expect in the coming days and weeks. Here are a few general recommendations:

  • Don’t immerse the area in water until the dressing can be removed. Clean the area regularly with a warm washcloth and antibacterial soap.
  • Don’t masturbate or have sex until the stitches dissolve or the wound is fully healed. This can take up to two weeks. Ask your doctor if you’re not sure.
  • Wear loose underwear and pants for several weeks.

See your doctor right away if you begin experiencing severe pain or if the surgery site won’t stop bleeding.

The bottom line

Penile cysts are generally harmless, but it’s important to see your doctor for diagnosis. They can make sure that the bump isn’t the result of an underlying condition and advise you on any next steps.

It’s possible, but not common, to develop more cysts depending on your health and underlying conditions. Your doctor will be able to provide you with more information about your individual outlook. The ishonest FindCare tool can provide options in your area if you don’t already have a doctor.

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