Fordyce Spots (a.k.a. Fordyce’s Granules) are small, barely raised, painless bumps (or spots) that appear on the genitals (the scrotum, penile shaft, or labia); they also often occur on the lips (of the face) on the inner surface, or near the vermilion border of the lip and face. When they present themselves on the head of the penis, they are referred to as Tyson's glands. The bumps are off white/yellowish or red in color, and can grow from one to three millimeters in size. The spots can become more apparent when the skin is stretched or pulled back.
There are a number of misconceptions regarding their existence - namely, that they’re an indication of something worse than they really are. Fordyce Spots are not related to: STDs/STIs (the most common misconception being genital warts), or indeed anything having to do with sexual contact; poor hygiene; or Cancer.
Fordyce Spots are a normal anatomical variant and occur naturally in the body. They are not infectious and are merely of an aesthetic concern. The condition was named after American professor and dermatologist, John Addison Fordyce.
The condition is quite common among men and, to a lesser extent, women. Fordyce Spots can occur at any age, though they usually first appear shortly after puberty starts. These bumps generally persist throughout life, but they can become less prominent with age.
Fordyce Spots ought not to be confused with Hirsuties Papillaris Genitalis (a.k.a. Pearly (Penile) Papules); these are flesh-colored lesions found around the corona, or head, of the penis. Fordyce Spots should also not to be confused with a similar expression of the spots found in female sufferers called Hirsuties Papillaris Vulvae, which can often also be confused as an outbreak of HPV infection.
Effects on Sex
Fordyce Spots may cause discomfort and/or embarrassment for the individuals who have them. Since male genitals can display this condition with some prominence, men usually end up suffering the most.
Some men go to great lengths to disguise the lumps on their genitals, resorting to such measures as: having sex with the lights off; wearing dark colored condoms; avoiding intimate contact; and even turning down sex.
Since many people aren’t familiar with the details of this condition, it’s not unusual for them to mistake the lesions for something that is more virulent, such as herpes, HPV, or even cancer. Those who are dealing with such daunting uncertainties may end up suffering from confusion, loss of self-esteem, anxiety or depression.
Sebaceous glands - which are normally responsible for depositing an oily secretion on hair - are usually associated with hair follicles. However, sebaceous glands can also occur in the mucous membrane where there aren’t supposed to be any hairs.
Fordyce Spots represent the appearance of ectopic sebaceous glands on the mucosal surface, which essentially is another way of saying that the cause is one of enlarged sebaceous glands. The size of these of spots may be related to hormonal influences in the body.
Although Fordyce Spots are common and merely a cosmetic variant in the body, it is best to see a health practitioner in order to distinguish between the asymptomatic, benign Fordyce Spots and actual virulent and/or infections mutations of the skin and tissue. Biopsies are seldom done to diagnose the condition, even though Fordyce spots may be easily confused with other conditions like condylomata acuminata (tiny epidermal cysts or milia) and mollusca contagiosa (which is highly contagious).
Fordyce Spots are a perfectly normal variation of the body, and medical or surgical treatment is normally unwarranted. However, there are a number of treatment options available to anyone who’d like to improve the cosmetic appearance of their genitals and/or lips:
- Laser treatments - which is successful in diminishing the appearance of spots, but costly and can leave scarring.
- Creams/Sprays/Chemical Peels - formulas available on the internet promise to help to improve the cosmetic appearance of bumps through the removal of excess oils, but have a drying effect and the benefits go away once you stop using the product.
- Let them be - since Fordyce Spots are only a cosmetic concern, not a health condition, reassurance from health practitioner is generally all that is needed to deal with their presence.
- Home Remedies - forums on Fordyce Spots recommend using toothpaste to remove bumps, though this method is believed to have drying side effects; these forums also mention that jojoba oil is supposed to temporarily shrink these spots in size.
Remember that every body is different and comes with its own unique set of anatomical quirks. If Fordyce Spots are troubling you, the important thing is to stay positive, avoid fixating, and not let it affect your sex life. Most people, even when up close, don’t even notice they’re there! Understanding the facts about Fordyce Spots will help improve the self-confidence of sufferers, and allow those who have to live their lives with them, to do so without being concerned that there’s something physically wrong with them.