- It is a rare condition characterized by a dark brown discoloration of the skin around the shaft and head of the penis. These brown or dark lichen color spots are usually isolated and significant. Patches of dark skin appear in most cases that do not cover the whole penis.
- But what does this happen? Melanin is a natural skin pigment determining your eyes, skin, and hair color. The higher the melanin content, the darker the skin. Melanosis occurs when this pigment is accumulated, resulting in hyperpigmentation. Therefore, Penile Melanosis is a case of hyperpigmentation of the penis.
- Penile melanosis is harmless, non-infectious, and can be treated successfully. Do not worry about this condition being contagious as it cannot spread to others.
- Penis discoloration usually does not require treatment, but some men may opt for cosmetic surgery to treat it if they do not like their penis’ appearance.
- While the condition can affect anyone, it is predominantly seen among boys and men between the ages of 15 - 72.
What Are the Symptoms of Penile Melanosis?
- There are no health symptoms of this condition unless you have dark brown spots on your penis. Penile melanosis includes hyperpigmented areas on the penis that are black or brown. Remember, these are smaller than a centimeter and are painless. Refer to Image 1 below.
- However, penile melanosis can sometimes be associated with lichen sclerosus, which causes white patches on the penis foreskin or head. This condition occurs due to hormonal changes, and topical applications might help to treat it. Refer to image 2 below
Glans Discoloration Pictures for Penile Melanosis and Lichen Sclerosus
Image 1: Penile melanosis
Image 2: Lichen sclerosus
Causes of Dark Spots on Penis
- Cancer of the penis: Although rare, it can cause discoloration of the penis. Darkening of glans is a common indication of penile cancer. There may also be flat brown or reddish spots on the penis, and the penis may feel sore.
- Injury to the penis: A bruise occurs after a rupture in blood vessels below the skin, causing the penis to appear darker than the body. Vigorous masturbation or sex, zipper accident, or pinching of the penis can injure its skin. An injury causing blood clots may give you a purple penis. Sometimes due to heavy blood flow or excessive sexual arousal, the uncircumcised head’s color may appear purple.
Causes of White Patches on the Penis
- Vitiligo: It is a condition where your skin is incapable of producing melanin pigment. While vitiligo is visible mainly on the knees and elbows, it can affect any part of your body, including the penis. It may appear as small or large white patches on glans.
- Syphilis: A sexually transmitted condition that can cause a white or red ulcer on the penis. Other symptoms of Syphilis include fever, headaches, and frequent fatigue.
Risk Factors and Causes of Penile Melanosis
The exact cause of penile melanosis is not yet fully understood. It is the accumulation of excess pigment cells in the skin that also affect other body parts. However, experts believe that the following factors can increase your risk of developing penile melanosis:
- Skin treatment with certain drugs such as PUVA therapy
- A history of penile injury or foreskin bruises
- Genetic causes
As discussed before, penile melanosis is a harmless condition and does not require any treatment. However, the glans color change may scare you. It is better to get it examined by your doctor as early as possible to rule out any chances of cancer or severe infection.
One can surgically remove spots if their appearance bothers you. This involves doing away with excess pigment from the skin, followed by grafting new skin to the area.
- It is also possible to remove patches on the penis using laser therapy. The Q-switched ruby laser is commonly used for penile melanosis treatment and other pigment-related skin conditions.
- This therapy involves synthetic ruby, emitting short and concentrated laser pulses to the affected area. You may need several sessions for your skin to return to its natural color.
Both these procedures are safe and do not alter the functioning of your penis. However, they may leave a small scar.
How to Get Rid of Dark Spots on the Foreskin?
If you have dark spots due to melanosis, it is safe to ignore them. But if you still feel they are bothering you, removing your foreskin or circumcision is advisable. Many a time, men may experience tight foreskin around their penis as well. If unattended, this could lead to a foreskin tear, causing immense discomfort.
Penile melanosis does not cause any physical complications. However, it may cause stress and anxiety, especially when it comes to sexual intercourse. Remember that there are different types of penis’ - each with its personality.
When to Seek Help
- Any discoloration can be disturbing, especially when accompanied by unusual growth. It is best to consult a doctor in such cases. Early diagnosis and treatment of any condition reduce the risk of health complications.
- You can consult a general practitioner or a urologist to confirm this diagnosis. They will enquire about the problem, associated symptoms and run a physical check to find the underlying cause of penis discoloration.
- Depending on your case of penile melanosis, they may also advise tests such as a standard blood count. It will help your doctor rule out other conditions causing penis discoloration, such as penile infection and cancer. Another common penile infection among men is a penile yeast infection.
- C Raulin, M P Schönermark, B Greve, S Werner; Q-switched ruby laser treatment of tattoos and benign pigmented skin lesions: a critical review - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9827962/
- T A Delaney, N P Walker; Penile melanosis successfully treated with the Q-switched ruby laser - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8204478/
- Vijayeeta Jairath, Nidhi Jindal, Manu Sehrawat, VK Jain, Sarabjit Kaur, MM Priyadarshini; Benign penile melanosis: A linear variant - https://ijdvl.com/benign-penile-melanosis-a-linear-variant/
- Georgi Tchernev, Anastasiya Atanasova Chokoeva, Hristo Mangarov; Penile Melanosis Associated with Lichen Sclerosus et Atrophicus: First Description in the Medical Literature - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5591605/