East Sussex Sexual Health Service and East Sussex County Council
Working together to support your sexual health

What's Normal?

If people are worried, they should have no hesitation in going to either visit one of our  Specialist Sexual Health Clinics or visit your GP who also will be able to check out your concern. Sexual Health Clinics are staffed by kind sympathetic people who have seen it all before and are experienced in genial examinations.  In the meantime, this section deals with common, normal lumps and bumps that can often be mistaken for something more serious by people who have never seen them before.

Pearly Penile Papules

Pearly penile papules

These are small, flesh-colored lumps normally found on the head of the penis. They usually go all the way around the penis head in one or two rows. These lumps are normal. They are not sexually transmitted or caused by bad hygiene. They don’t cause symptoms and don’t require treatment.

Smegma

Smegma

If you don’t wash your penis every day, a cheesy-looking substance called smegma can build up. Smegma is a natural lubricant that keeps the penis moist. It is found on the head of the penis and on the foreskin. If it builds up is can start to smell, prevent easy foreskin movement and can become a breeding ground for bacteria. This can cause redness and swelling. Daily washing will prevent this.

Lymphocele

Lymphocele

 This is a hard swelling that suddenly appears on the shaft of the penis after sex or masturbation. It happens when the lymph channels in your penis are temporarily blocked. The swelling is made up of Lymph which is a clear fluid that forms part of the body’s immune system. The swelling should soon subside and will not cause any permanent problems.

Vestibular Glands

Vestibular glands 

Just at the entrance to the vagina there are small finger-like protrusions, see picture. In some women they can be quite large and can easily be mistaken for genital warts, even by experienced GU staff. These are completely normal and should be left alone.

Fordyce Spots

Fordyce spots

Fordyce spots are small white sebaceous glands that are just underneath the skin without hair follicles and appear in patches in both the male and female genital areas. In males they are more often found on the head or the shaft of the penis. They are generally harmless and need no treatment.

Sebaceous Cysts

Sebaceous cysts

These are quite firm, yellow lumps, that collect just underneath the skin in both male and female, and can occur anywhere in the genital area, but in females it is more commonly around the outer lip area, and in men they are usually found on the scrotum. This picture here shows some sebaceous cysts in the outer lips. They are just blocked up glands and they rarely, if ever, cause any problem. It's best to leave them alone, don't squeeze them or try and get rid of them yourself - just leave them.

If in doubt, check it out, we will be happy to see you at any one of our clinics.