Fordyce spots, or sebaceous granules, are a non-STI dermatological condition characterized by clusters of small (1 to 3 mm) elevated bumps or spots on various parts of the body. They can appear pale red, yellowish-white, or skin-colored and most commonly appear on the glans or shaft of the penis, the scrotum, the labia, or on the edges of the lips. Fordyce spots are a variation of sebaceous glands, which are normally responsible for lubricating the skin and hair follicles. Fordyce spots are a highly common condition, presenting themselves in around 70 to 80% of the adult population at any given time.1,2
Fordyce spots are often misdiagnosed as pearly penile papules, another non-STI dermatological condition. Pearly penile papules are skin outgrowths that area white or skin-colored. In contrast to Fordyce spots, pearly penile papules are often found on the head of the penis, rather than the shaft or scrotum.1 Both Fordyce spots and pearly penile papules are non-transmissible and do not present any major health concerns.3 Although Fordyce spots are usually harmless, if you notice new bumps appearing, we recommend that you consult a doctor as soon as possible to get a diagnosis.
Symptoms of Fordyce spots include papules on the mouth and genital regions. These bumps may affect one’s self-confidence and may cause worry, but they are otherwise harmless. Over a period of many years, Fordyce spots may go away on their own. If the bumps are itchy or painful, please see a doctor.1
Causes and Risk Factors
Fordyce spots are visible sebaceous glands that lack hair follicles. Generally, Fordyce spots are present from birth. However, they become more prominent during or after puberty due to hormonal changes. Although men and women are both susceptible to Fordyce spots, men are twice as likely to develop them than women.4
Often, qualified physicians can recognize Fordyce spots based on appearance alone. However, they may take a biopsy in order to conclusively diagnose the spots. We do not recommend attempting self-diagnosis as STIs such as genital warts can sometimes mimic the appearance of Fordyce spots.1,2
Because Fordyce spots are benign, treatment is not necessary and is not recommended by doctors due to potential complications. However, if Fordyce spots are a source of insecurity because of their cosmetic appearance, there are a variety of treatment options available.1,2
Before this procedure, a local anesthetic is applied to the afflicted region to reduce discomfort. Next, a small pen-like device is used to puncture the skin and excise undesirable tissue. This treatment is highly effective and does not scar the affected skin.3
Carbon dioxide lasers can make Fordyce spots less visible. However, these lasers can cause unwanted scars. Another type of laser, the pulsed dye laser, reduces the appearance of Fordyce spots with minimal scarring.3
Topical treatments may also be prescribed to shrink Fordyce spots. These treatments include bichloracetic acid, topical tretinoin, and oral isotretinoin. Topical treatments can also be used in conjunction with laser treatments to further reduce the Fordyce spots. Although topical treatments can be less expensive than laser treatments, they may cause side effects such as inflammation, and a burning sensation in the afflicted region.
Despite the many treatment options for Fordyce spots, they are completely normal and are not a cause for concern. Consult a doctor if you think you would like to receive treatment for Fordyce spots.3
A Final Note
Fordyce spots are natural and are completely harmless. Fordyce spots are very common amongst adults and should not be a cause for concern. However, before assuming any bumps on your body are Fordyce spots, consult a doctor as soon as possible.
- “Fordyce spots.” DermNet New Zealand. DermNet New Zealand. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.
- Hecht, Marjorie. “Understanding Fordyce Spots.” Healthline.com. Healthline Media, 27 Mar. 2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.
- Nordqvist, Christian. “Fordyce Spots: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatments.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.
- Ruth Holt, Graham Roberts and Crispian Scully. “ABC of Oral Health: Oral Health and Disease.” BMJ: British Medical Journal , Vol. 320, No. 7250 (Jun. 17, 2000) , pp. 1652-1655
Last Updated: May 9 2017.