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Fordyce spots are harmless, tiny bumps that appear on the outer border of the lips, the inner lining of the cheeks, the tip of the penis, and on the vulva in women. They are similar to sebaceous glands, which produce an oily substance in the skin, and although they are more visible, they are not associated with hair follicles. These common skin lesions were named after John Addison Fordyce, an American dermatologist.

Fordyce spots look like whitish or yellowish papules (bumps) that may be found in up to 90% of adults. They may be present at birth, but they become more visible later in life, notably after puberty. They may appear as a single spot or in groups of up to a hundred spots. It is easier to see them when you stretch the skin. They are about one to three millimeters in size, and are usually asymptomatic. However, some people experience mild itching.

What Causes Fordyce Spots?

It is not clear on what causes Fordyce spots to appear. They are not the result of poor hygiene or disease. Fordyce spots are not contagious or harmful to health. They are not sexually transmitted nor infectious. However, it is important to recognize them and differentiate them from skin lesions caused by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as genital warts, which must be tested and properly treated.

Other non-infectious skin lesions that may look like fordyce spots include milia, which look like small acne spots on babies, sebaceous hyperplasia, and epidermoid cysts.

No treatment is necessary for fordyce spots. However, sometimes, people get anxious over them and would want to have them removed for cosmetic purposes. Consult a doctor if you are concerned about your skin lesions.

Remedies for Fordyce Spots

  • Avoid touching, squeezing, or picking on your skin lesions.

  • Keep your skin healthy by eating a balanced, nutrient-dense diet.

  • Maintain good oral and body hygiene. Practice good skin care.

  • Try over-the-counter creams for skin problems, that contain ingredients like alpha hydroxy, jojoba oil, Argania extract, and tocopherol.

  • Take dietary supplements that promote skin health, including vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K.

  • Chemical peels, containing tretinoin, isotretinoin, bichloracetic acid or trichloroacetic acid (TCA) may be effective.

Dermatologic procedures to remove fordyce spots may involve:

  • electrosurgery

  • liquid nitrogen freezing

  • cauterization

  • vaporizing CO2 laser treatment

  • photodynamic therapy

  • oral isotretinoin

  • micro-punch excision surgery

These outpatient office procedures can be used with success, but the risk of pain, bleeding, scarring and other complications must be considered.

When to See a Doctor

Consult a doctor if you experience symptoms such as itching, pain, skin inflammation, oozing, fever, or other unusual symptoms. These may be symptoms of an infectious skin problem, which may need further evaluation and treatment.

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