Pearly Penile Papules (PPP) can bother men because the penis is an organ for excretion, reproduction, and pleasure—all vital functions that need to be healthy. This condition isn’t rare and affects up to a third of men. It causes a lot of anxiety because the growths can be mistaken for a contagious sexually transmitted disease (STD) or cancer, two huge reasons to want PPP removed.
What Is PPP?
PPP are bead-like or finger-like skin growths that appear in rows or clusters below the glans penis. The rows appear orderly and don’t appear as irregular clusters. The papules rarely reach the shaft and appear to have smooth contours. This differentiates them from warts and cancerous lesions.
Healthcare professionals refer to them as pearls because of their shape and color, which can be white, cream, yellowish, or pink. The growths also resemble pimples with no center range, from barely visible to lumps with a diameter between 1–4 mm.
PPP is considered a normal variant of penile skin and is never malignant, infectious, or hereditary. It can occur even in people with perfect hygiene.
The growth of PPP isn’t preventable. The bumps can spontaneously appear during puberty. In addition, the appearance, spread, and distribution usually stay the same over time. Some men report fading as they approach their senior years.
Since its initial occurrence coincides with sexually active years, PPP has been misconstrued as contagious and acquired through sexual activity. Fortunately, you can read more about PPP and how you can have these growths removed.
What Are The Symptoms of PPP?
Since the common thought is that any growth isn’t good, those with PPP and their partners will be happy to know that this isn’t the case with this condition. If it isn’t irritated by vigorous sexual activity or handling, PPP doesn’t cause any uncomfortable symptoms. By itself, it doesn’t cause pain or itchiness. Sexual partners don’t need to get treated or tested for STDs.
However, there are cases when a superimposed infection on the rim of the penis can cause itchiness, burning, bleeding, or pain. About 1% of men with PPP also have genital warts, and any symptoms you can experience are due to warts, not the PPP. Warts will not cause PPP to enlarge, multiply, or change color.
Possibly, the most bothersome of all is how the growths appear to partners who may be entertaining thoughts that they, too, will get infected. It is an irrational fear because it does not affect women and is not acquired through body fluids or any form of contact.
However, when there is a superimposed infection that is venereal, the partners would need to get treated.
How Is PPP Removed?
The decision to remove PPP is usually due to cosmetic reasons. Unfortunately, PPP continues to distress about half the population of men, even if their healthcare providers assured them the bumps are benign, even if they persist for life.
Men with fine growths or tiny white spots are less likely to have PPP removed than those with more defined skin growths. Their sexual partners often mistake these benign growths as contagious or cancerous. Even if these aren’t true, partners take a lot of re-education to understand that PPP is harmless.
PPP can be removed at the clinic through laser resurfacing, electrocautery, cryosurgery, and radiosurgery. However, radiosurgery and surgery are less frequent. You can also treat this condition safely at home using a PPP kit.
The number of sessions depends on the patient’s pain tolerance and the number, size, and distribution of the growths targeted for removal. Each session would cost between USD$800–USD$1,000. The total cost varies according to the procedure, consultation, and biopsy fee.
Consultations can cost up to USD$150, and a biopsy can cost as much as USD$300. These are on top of the procedure cost. Fortunately, the growths don’t return after the procedure. But if there are too many to treat at a single session, doctors may offer a package fee to cover three sessions.
However, these procedures aren’t advisable for patients with uncontrolled diabetes and those prone to forming keloids and extensive scars.
Here’s how each procedure differs:
1. PPP Removal Kit
PPP removal kits cost USD$99 and are a safe and effective way to treat the condition at home. This kit works on the same principle as electrocautery.
The user directs the electric ionizer tool toward the bumps, similar to how healthcare providers do it. The procedure is quick and painless with an operating temperature cooler than a laser or electrocautery. This method produces fewer abrasions, and users can expect faster healing time.
2. Laser Resurfacing
Laser resurfacing is done under topical anesthesia using a carbon dioxide laser. This procedure is painless, but patients may feel a slight snap as the laser energy zaps the growth. Laser resurfacing uses the same machine for the nonsurgical treatment of skin lesions.
The laser doesn’t damage surrounding tissues, but bleeding or swelling may occur after the procedure. The wound won’t scar unless the patient is a keloid former. Complete recovery is expected within one to two weeks. This is a one-time procedure since the bumps won’t grow back.
The cost is around GBP£900, but the UK National Health Service (NHS) usually doesn’t cover this procedure. There may be a free consultation before the treatment. It costs about the same in the United States and starts at USD$1,000.
Electrocautery is an alternative to laser surgery. The machine produces a spark capable of vaporizing the growths upon contact. It’s cheaper than laser treatment and is said to be as effective. Treatment cost begins at USD$600. The patient can also get a curettage to improve the results.
Cryosurgery freezes the bumps through a liquid nitrogen spray gun. The procedure is quick and usually lasts 20 minutes or less. The success rate is around 80%–90%, and the patient is expected to recover within three weeks. Treatment costs start at USD 800.
Pearly Penile Papules are benign lesions that spread and are considered natural. Those who opt for removal can treat PPP at home with removal kits. They can also seek professional help and get laser resurfacing, cryosurgery, cauterization, surgery, and radiosurgery. However, the costs depend on the modality used and the extent of the growth.