Penile Melanosis: Causes, Symptoms And Prevention

Medically reviewed by Dr. Ola Tarabzuni

Overview

The head and shaft of the penis have discolored skin due to the unusual disorder known as penile melanosis. These areas may appear as dark brown, black spots or freckles on the penis and maybe a tiny bit or noticeably darker than the surrounding skin. There are no other symptoms associated with penile melanosis. There are no means to spread the illness to others, nor is it infectious or contagious. But the precise reason is still a mystery. In most cases, penile melanosis is not harmful and doesn’t need to be treated. However, some individuals could choose cosmetic operations to remove the spots.

Learn more about penile melanosis in this blog, including its causes, problems it can be associated with, and available treatments.

What is Penile Melanosis?

Penile melanosis, also known as penile lentigines or penile freckling, is a benign condition characterized by dark spots or patches on the skin of the penis. It is a form of melanocytic nevus, which refers to an overgrowth or accumulation of melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) in the skin. Furthermore, penile melanosis typically manifests as small, flat, brown to black spots or macules on the glans penis (head of the penis), foreskin, or shaft of the penis. 

What are the Symptoms of Penile Melanosis?

Penile melanosis typically presents as dark spots or patches on the skin of the penis. These spots are usually asymptomatic and do not cause physical discomfort or pain. Here are some critical characteristics of penile melanosis:

Uniform Coloration

The spots in penile melanosis tend to have a uniform color, usually ranging from light brown to dark brown or black. They do not typically exhibit variations in color or show irregular borders.

Absence of Itching or Pain

Penile melanosis is generally benign and does not cause itching, pain, or discomfort. The spots are typically painless and do not elicit any physical symptoms.

Stable Appearance

The spots in penile melanosis usually remain stable over time. They may persist without significant size, shape, or color changes.

Dark Spots or Patches

The primary symptom of penile melanosis is the presence of small, flat, brown to black spots on the private area in males(head of the penis), foreskin, or shaft of the penis. Moreover, the size, shape, and number of spots can vary from person to person.

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What Does Penile Melanosis Look Like?

Penile melanosis or penile lentiginosis typically appears as small, flat, brown to black spots or patches on the skin of the penis. The appearance can vary between individuals, but here are some common characteristics:

Color

The spots associated with penile melanosis are typically dark brown or black. They may range from light brown to a deeper brown or nearly black shade.

Size and Shape

The diameter of the dots might range from a few millimeters to a centimeter or more. They typically have an oval or round form.

Texture

The spots are generally flat and smooth to the touch. They do not typically have any raised or rough areas.

Distribution

Penile melanosis spots can appear on different parts of the penis, including the glans penis (head of the penis), foreskin, or shaft of the penis. Also, they may be present in one area or scattered across multiple regions.

What Causes Penile Melanosis?

Doctors are unsure of the cause of penile melanosis in some patients. It is an accumulation of pigment cells in the skin, which can happen elsewhere.

However, certain potential risk factors could raise someone’s likelihood of getting penile melanosis, such as:

Melanin Production

Penile melanosis results from increased production or accumulation of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color, hair, and eyes. Moreover, this excessive melanin production in the skin cells of the penis leads to the formation of dark spots or patches.

Genetic Predisposition

Penile melanosis may be genetically predisposed to occur in some people. Also, people with darker skin tones are more susceptible to this illness.

Hormonal Factors

Hormonal changes or imbalances could potentially play a role in developing penile melanosis. However, the specific hormonal mechanisms involved have not been elucidated.

Sun Exposure

Studies say excessive exposure to sunshine, especially ultraviolet (UV) radiation, stimulates melanin synthesis in the skin. Penile melanosis patches may develop or darken due to exposure to the sun.

Age

Even though penile melanosis can afflict anyone, it often manifests between the ages of 15 and 72.

Injuries

Injuries to the penis in the past can be a factor because scar tissue growth can result in hyperpigmentation.

Certain Skin Treatments

Penile melanosis risk may enhance by pharmacological therapy, including anthralin or PUVA therapy.

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Treatment Options For Penile Melanosis

Penile melanosis typically doesn’t require treatment, and doctors don’t recommend it. Some people find it beneficial to have their doctor reassure them that the disease is harmless. For instance, it’s crucial to understand that the disease is benign and communicable is not.

Removal Options

If macules on your penis bother you, you might be a good candidate for surgical excision of the lesions. The technique involves:

  • Removing the layer of skin that contains the extra pigment.
  • Performing a skin graft.
  • Resurfacing the skin to restore its thickness and look.

It might also be feasible to eliminate them with laser therapy. The laser in question is A Q-switched ruby, which employs a synthetic ruby and emits intense, brief laser pulses.

It is a typical treatment for dermatological disorders that associates with pigment. It can take several treatments to eradicate the lesions.

Even though they are mostly safe and have no adverse effects on the penis’s health or ability to function, these procedures may leave minor scars. Before committing to a treatment plan, go through all the risks and advantages of these procedures.

Penile Melanosis Risks and Complications

Penile melanosis is benign and does not pose significant risks or complications. The spots or patches associated with penile melanosis are harmless and do not cause physical discomfort or pain. However, it’s essential to consider the following:

Differential Diagnosis

While penile melanosis is usually benign, it is essential to differentiate it from other conditions with similar symptoms, such as melanoma, a type of skin cancer. If there are any suspicious features or changes in the spots, a healthcare professional should evaluate the condition to rule out more severe conditions.

Psychological Impact

In some cases, penile melanosis may cause psychological distress or impact body image. Additionally, suppose the appearance of the spots affects your self-esteem or causes emotional concerns. Discussing your feelings with a healthcare professional who can provide support and guidance is essential.

Changes in Spots

Although uncommon, a healthcare professional should evaluate any changes in the spots’ size, shape, color, or texture. These changes would indicate a need for further investigation or medical intervention.

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Consult a doctor to differentiate penile melanosis from melanoma.

Conclusion

Penile melanosis is a benign condition that accompanies dark spots or patches on the skin of the penis. Also, these spots, usually brown to black, are typically flat, asymptomatic, and do not pose significant health risks. While the exact cause is unclear, factors such as increased melanin production, genetic predisposition, hormonal changes, and sun exposure may contribute to its development. Finally, if cosmetic concerns or changes are on the spot, however see an online doctor to rule out severe conditions. Regular check-ups can help monitor the situation and address any potential concerns.

FAQs

How to get rid of dark spots on your foreskin naturally?

You can take various steps if you have black patches on your foreskin:
Maintaining proper hygiene
Wash the area with warm water and mild soap
Avoid using scented or harsh soaps that could irritate the skin.
Some herbal medicines may help lessen the appearance of black spots.
Honey, lemon juice, aloe vera, cucumber slices, or aloe vera gel have spot-lightening properties
Protecting the skin from the sun is crucial if the dark spots result from hyperpigmentation.

Does penile melanosis go away?

The dark patches or spots frequently last forever and might not fade away. It’s crucial to remember that you should get a doctor’s evaluation on any changes in the skin’s appearance, including the formation of new or shifting black spots, to rule out any underlying conditions.

Is penile melanosis common?

Compared to other skin disorders, penile melanosis, which is the appearance of darkly pigmented spots or patches on the skin of the penis, is relatively uncommon. Moreover, people with darker skin tones experience it more frequently.

Is penile melanosis harmful?

Penile melanosis is generally benign and not associated with harmful health effects. The appearance of penile melanosis may cause aesthetic concerns for some individuals, and it is typically not medically concerning.
However, it’s important to tell your provider about any changes in the appearance of the skin, including the development of new or changing dark spots, for evaluation and diagnosis.

Is penile melanosis a STD?

It is incorrect to say that penile melanoma is an STD. On the other hand, STDs are infections that are spread mainly through sexual interaction. If you don’t treat STDs timely, they can result in various symptoms and health hazards. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, and the human papillomavirus (HPV) are examples of STDs.

How long does penile melanosis last?

Penile melanosis is typically a permanent condition, meaning that the darkly pigmented spots or patches on the skin of the penis are likely to persist over time. Once these spots develop, they do not spontaneously disappear or disappear independently.

How many men have penile melanosis?

Penile melanosis is not very common in men. About 0.011% of men suffer from penile melanosis.

Is penile vitiligo reversible?

Penile vitiligo or discoloration occurs in white patches on the scrotum, foreskin, or penile shaft. It is not an STD nor contagious. However, there is no cure, but specific treatments can bring back the original color. The treatments include light therapy, medications, or even surgery.

What can be mistaken for penile melanosis?

Penile melanosis can often mistake for malignant melanoma due to penile spots. However, the two are very different conditions, as melanoma is cancerous, while penile melanosis is just the discoloration of the penile shaft or foreskin without severe complications of cancer. Also, the spots are darker in melanoma than in melanosis.

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