Fordyce Spots

Fordyce Spots on Penis

Fordyce spots are bumps that resemble pimples that can appear on the genitalia, especially around the base of the penis and testicles. They can also appear on the lips and inside of the mouth. On females, they are on the genitalia, specifically on the labia. They were named after a famous dermatologist named John Fordyce, who discovered them in 1896. 

Sometimes these papules can pop up during birth or even puberty. As you get older, they can appear without warning. They can be alarming as most people don’t know what they are. You might even think they are an STD, but there’s really nothing to worry about. They cannot be transmitted or contracted from an infected person. It’s really not an infection at all either.

Fordyce Spots Lips

They are also called Fordyce glands or Fordyce granules and are basically oil glands that are enlarged making them elevated or raised. A lot of people get them and they are completely harmless. These spots usually pop up where no hair is present or doesn’t grow, like on the inside and outside of the lips, on the lips, and on the inside of the cheeks. They can grow in clusters or appear as scattered bumps. 

These spots can come in diameters of 1 to 5 millimeters and can appear white or yellow in color. In the genitals, they can appear red in color. Almost 80% of adults have these spots and can be alarming upon first glance. It’s always a good idea to get these checked out by a doctor just to be sure the spots you see really are Fordyce spots. They can be confused easily with other skin conditions, like cysts or carcinoma. 

What Causes Fordyce Spots?

How these spots are formed are unknown, but scientists do know they are caused by the body’s sebaceous glands. These glands moisturize the oils in your hair and skin to help fight off dryness. As you get older, these spots can appear more frequently. For this reason, scientists reason that these spots may be linked to the endocrine system since this system directly affects the sebaceous glands. 

There are no associated symptoms with these spots, but they can be itchy on occasion. Dermatologists regard them as benign and often recommend to leave them alone. They may be unsightly and embarrassing for some, but there are treatment options to have them removed. 

They are a completely natural part of the body so there is no need to worry too much about them. These spots are not caused by any sort of disease and are hardly noticeable in most cases. They can be spotted on newborns, but are more noticeable during puberty as oil glands can enlarge and undergo biological changes at that stage of life. 

Fordyce Spots Treatment

There are several options available on the market today to remove these spots. Your dermatologist will be able to recommend the right treatment for you.

One powerful option is CO2 laser resurfacing. This is the same laser that treats stretch marks, acne scars, as well as other types of scars, and hyperpigmentation. The science behind the laser is the use of a carbon dioxide laser that removes the outermost layer of skin, which is normally the thinnest. Once that is removed, a beautiful layer of softer skin from underneath emerges. There are some side effects and the sun should be avoided until the skin has completely healed from the laser treatment. You may have some swelling and redness occur for a few days to a few weeks, depending on your body’s natural healing response.

The second option for treatment of Fordyce spots is Isotretinoin, which is sourced from Vitamin A. It is a type of retinoid which is usually used on acne prone skin. It can be anti-inflammatory and effective in preventing scarring amongst other skin conditions, like Fordyce spots. It is usually administered orally and can only be prescribed by a medical professional. This is not a long term treatment, however as it can ruin the liver and cause depression. 

A third option in treating Fordyce spots is micro-punch surgery. A pen-like apparatus is used by a doctor that “punches” the skin very quickly. Topical anesthesia is usually applied to avoid pain. So far, this kind of procedure has proven to be effective in the treatment of Fordyce spots. 

Of course, your dermatologist will be able to recommend the right procedure for your age and skin type. 

Fordyce spots can even fade over time without any treatment or medical involvement. Even though they may be unsightly, they are completely normal. These bumps are not disease causing and do not turn into cancer. Most people have them and don’t even realize it. 

It’s really important to not squeeze these or pick at them. This will not make them go away, but may very likely cause an infection. Leave them alone and let a doctor assess them instead. They’ll be able to guide you toward the proper treatment option. 

Fordyce Spots Vagina

fordyce spots penis

Fordyce spots can appear on the labia if you’re a female or on the penis or scrotum if you’re a male. As stated earlier, they do grow where no hair grows, so these areas are completely normal for them to pop up. They can even appear on the areolas of the breast.

Having them appear on the labia or foreskin is completely normal. As you go through puberty, they can become more noticeable as your hormones can make them bigger. But, on average, Fordyce spots show up in early adulthood. These papules are asymptomatic so there is no associated pain or irritation.  Fordyce Spots are also on the penis.

Are Fordyce Spots An STD?

They’re barely noticeable in most cases and you’d have to look really hard to see them. Since they can sometimes be red in color on the genitals, it’s always a good idea to get them checked out by a dermatologist and get up-to-date on your STD tests. In most cases, a biopsy is not even needed to diagnose them. 

It is very common for the untrained eye to mistake them for genital warts or other STDs. Having a doctor look at the spots will determine exactly what they are and what course of action to take. Some STDs may appear as Fordyce spots at first, but will grow into something else. Taking an STD test will rule out any suspicion of a sexually transmitted disease.

Generally, Fordyce spots go undetected and don’t require removal. However, if you do get diagnosed with them, leave them alone as picking at them can cause them to become irritated. Squeezing them or breaking the skin around them can cause an infection, and even worse, a scar. Don’t let these harmless bumps ruin your self-esteem. Ask a doctor today about treatment options if they are affecting your confidence and quality of life.

Medically Reviewed by on April 21, 2022

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Author: Esther Jordan

Esther Jordan has been a writer ever since she can remember. She has always loved the free gift of self-expression through journaling, creating stories, and sharing life experiences in front of audiences. Public speaking and creating content has been a strong suit of hers since high school. Immediately after college, she received a paid position as an search engine optimization (SEO) writer in 2010 when SEO was still a very brick and mortar concept for a lot of small businesses. It was a time of do-it-yourself websites and online magic that everyone wanted and either referred to it as SEO or pay-per-click (PPC).