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What are the Sebaceous Glands of the Penis?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The sebaceous glands of the penis are small glands that secrete an oily or waxy substance. They are found elsewhere on the body as well, and they serve to lubricate the hair and skin. On the penis, they may appear off-white or yellow in color. Although they are very small, the sebaceous glands may be visible because the tissues of the organ are thin and easier to see beneath.

Some individuals may have more noticeable glands than others. This is normal, and they cannot be removed through squeezing or poking them. Doing so could lead to an infection, so it is best to leave them alone. Occasionally, one may become swollen and inflamed due to a clog or infection. This will generally subside on its own, but an antibiotic may need to be prescribed.

Inflammation in the sebaceous glands of the penis can sometimes be mistaken for sexually transmitted diseases like genital warts or herpes infection. Swollen, sore, red, or oozing bumps should always be checked by a medical professional to rule out this possibility. Most times, infected glands will be firmer to the touch and they will subside more quickly than genital warts, but this is not always the case. It is important that patients not try and “pop” an infected gland, since this can spread infection to other glands.

Shaving the genital region, sharing towels and other linens, and failure to wash properly may increase the risk of infection in the glands in the penis. During an infection, all towels should be washed with hot water and razors used in the region should be thrown out. Washing with an antiseptic solution may reduce the risk of spreading bacteria.

The sebaceous glands of the penis often do not secrete much oil on a circumcised penis. Men who are not circumcised may have more active glands beneath the foreskin. This acts to lubricate and protect the penis from infection, much like a woman’s vagina secrete fluids to remove bacteria. The accumulation of oil and other secretions beneath the foreskin can develop a white or yellow substance called smegma. This can be gently cleaned by retracting the foreskin and rinsing it clean with water.

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Discussion Comments

By SeanH — On Nov 24, 2015

I used to be freaked out by these glands, but after some research and reassurance from my girlfriend, I finally was able to let it go. However, she did mention that my penis is pretty dry (news to me) so she bought me a penis health creme. I've been using it for a while now and my skin feels nice and soft. She loves it. You guys should check these cremes out.

By Domido — On May 06, 2011

How do you know when to go to the doctor over an infected sebaceous gland on the penis? I have one that is getting bigger and bigger, and to be quite honest, it really hurts. I don’t even want to get intimate with my girlfriend because it’s so tender.

I’ve gotten these before, and I knew what they were, so I was never concerned. But this one just seems to be sticking around a lot longer. Could it be something more serious?

By oscar23 — On May 04, 2011

So it is the sebaceous glands that you can see through the skin of the shaft of the penis? I’m so glad to hear this – my husband keeps getting little penile bumps, and you can see the little yellow spots underneath the skin. He was afraid it was something bad. He’ll be even more relieved than I am – but now I’ve got to tell him to quit popping them!

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