You notice one day little, pale red or white bumps on your penis and freak out. What the heck could this be? Your mind races about who you’ve been sexually active with – because the first thought is often an STD. In fact, it’s always a good idea to see a medical professional if you get any strange bumps, to rule out STDs or any other infectious disease. However, in some cases, these scary looking bumps turn out to be simple Fordyce spots.
In this article we’ll talk about what Fordyce spots are and how Fordyce spots can be treated.
What are Fordyce Spots?
Fordyce spots are small, light red, skin-colored, yellow-white, or white, raised bumps. They can appear on areas like the penis shaft, the scrotum, the labia (of women), or the lips or mouth. When they first appear, it’s not uncommon for people to be very worried about them, because they can look like genital warts or even the start of a herpes outbreak.
Some other dermatological conditions can appear similar to Fordyce spots, including:
- Milium cysts – which are hard, white, round bumps that can develop on your face
- Sebaceous hyperplasia – a condition that can cause small, soft bumps to form
- Epidermoid cysts – which are small, hard lumps that can form under your skin
- Basal cell carcinoma – a type of skin cancer that can appear as a bump, red patch, or other growth
For these reasons, it’s always good to have a medical professional take a look at any new bumps.
The reality though is 85% of the population (primarily males though) will experience Fordyce spots at some point in their lives. Fordyce spots basically are visible sebaceous glands. These glands normally secrete oil for your hair and skin.
The good news – they are harmless. They are not an STD. They are not contagious. No treatment is needed, except for cosmetic reasons.
Why Did I Get Fordyce Spots?
Fordyce spots are present at birth, but most often visibly emerge during puberty with hormonal changes. However, there are other causes that may precede their appearance. These include:
- Unhealthy Eating – Fordyce spots may appear as a result of oils being built up in these glands. Therefore, eating poorly (foods that increase oil production) can be a potential cause.
- Poor Hygiene – The sebaceous glands can become clogged and may result in Fordyce spots with poor hygiene. Wearing tight underwear and not showering off after workouts can clog these glands.
Again, the Fordyce spots were present at birth, but these conditions may cause them to visibly appear.
Fordyce Spots as a Predictor of a More Serious Disease
Some studies have linked Fordyce spots to more serious ailments. One published in the journal Gut found that 86.7 percent of patients with an inherited form of colorectal cancer had Fordyce spots in their mouth. The authors suggest the presence of Fordyce spots might help doctors identify families at risk of this form of cancer.
Another study reported in the Dental Research Journal suggests that large numbers of Fordyce spots in your mouth might be associated with hyperlipidemia. This condition involves elevated levels of fats in your blood. It’s a risk factor for heart disease.
It’s important to note that these conditions are associated with Fordyce spots, not caused by them.
How Can I Get Rid of Fordyce Spots?
Although Fordyce spots are harmless, many people want to get rid of them for cosmetic reasons. There are several options you can use:
- Micro-Punch Surgery – This procedure uses a small, pen-like tool to “punch” into the skin and remove Fordyce spot. A local anesthetic is applied to minimize pain. No scarring typically occurs with this procedure, and according to a study published in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery the Fordyce spots remained gone even a year after treatment.
- Laser Treatments – Carbon dioxide or pulsed dye lasers may be used to remove Fordyce spots. The use of carbon dioxide lasers, however, may result in scarring. Pulsed dye lasers may have less scarring, but are typically more expensive.
- Prescribed Topic Treatments – There are several types of topical treatments that can be prescribed to treat your Fordyce spots. These include: topical tretinoin (Retin-A, Avita), bichloracetic acid, oral isotretinoin (Claravis, Sotret). These may be prescribed with laser treatment. Side effects vary, but often include burning sensation and inflammation.
- Time – Fordyce spots often diminish with time, without any treatment.
The important thing is you should never pick at Fordyce spots. This won’t make them go away, and more importantly, can result in serious skin infections.