Fordyce Spots: What Are They?

Fordyce spots are an aesthetic issue that's easy to confuse with a sexually transmitted disease. Read this article to find out more.
Fordyce Spots: What Are They?
Leonardo Biolatto

Written and verified by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Fordyce spots are small pimples from 1 to 3 millimeters in diameter that are usually white, yellow, or flesh-colored. They appear on the oral mucosa, on the lips, on the penis or scrotum, and on the vulva. What’s more, they’re very common, both in women and men of any age.

Their name comes from dermatologist John Addison Fordyce, who was the first person to investigate them. Technically, Fordyce spots are ectopic sebaceous glands. They’re responsible for synthesizing the sebum that lubricates and protects the skin. In most people, they’re located in the dermis and therefore aren’t visible. However, in this case, they’re located in the epidermis.

In this article, we’ll you everything you need to know about Fordyce spots.

What are Fordyce spots?

As we’ve already mentioned, Fordyce spots are ectopic sebaceous glands. This means that they’re glands located in the epidermis, although their normal location is the dermis. Therefore, as the epidermis is the most superficial layer of the skin, they’re visible.

It’s important to note that these lesions aren’t malignant or infectious. Those who have them may often think that they have a sexually transmitted infection. However, these skin spots having nothing to do with sex. Therefore, their only impact is aesthetic. They’re not a health problem nor are they transmissible.

Normally, they appear during puberty and remain throughout life. The truth is that they’re present from birth, but become more visible over the years. Therefore, about 90% are observed in adults. However, they usually decrease, in part, with age.

A woman's intimate zone.

What symptoms do Fordyce spots produce?

Fordyce spots don’t involve serious symptoms. However, they can produce itching and irritation in the areas where they appear. That’s to say, in the oral mucosa, the lips, the penis or scrotum, and the vulva. However, the main symptoms they produce are stress or low self-esteem.

This is because it’s easy to confuse the spots with sexually transmitted diseases. Therefore, it’s important to know that they’re not an STD and prevent this concern, which can end up embarrassing the person and influencing their sex life. Fordyce spots may bleed slightly during sex.

This type of lesions can lead to an anxiety or mood disorder. Especially in people who are already insecure and have low self-esteem. Therefore, it’s important to go to the doctor if you have any questions. The professional will alleviate your concerns about these spots and, in addition, help you understand that it’s merely an aesthetic issue.

What are its causes?

The sebaceous glands are found inside the hair follicles, which are in the dermis. They produce sebum on a regular basis, which is the oil that helps keep the skin lubricated and protected. However, in the case of Fordyce spots, the glands are located in the epidermis instead of the dermis.

Since they’re not in the hair follicle, the sebum is blocked and ends up forming small bumps or spots. These spots are visible because they’re found in the epidermis, which is the most superficial layer of the skin. In fact, the explanation for their being more visible with age is that the epidermis, over the years, stretches and becomes more transparent.

At the same time, sebum is related to cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood. Therefore, Fordyce spots are associated with people who have elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

A woman looking at her lips in the mirror.

You might also want to read: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment of Skin Rash

Treatment of Fordyce spots

As we know, Fordyce spots aren’t a health threat and don’t require treatment. However, due to their aesthetic impact, there are some treatments that allow for their removal, such as the following:

Do you suspect you have these spots?

If you think you have Fordyce spots, the best thing to do is to consult a dermatologist as soon as possible. The professional will carry out the pertinent tests to rule out any other pathology. At the same time, he or she will be able to suggest the most suitable treatment if they affect your self-esteem or well-being in a negative way.

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The contents of this publication are for informational purposes only. At no time can they serve to facilitate or replace the diagnoses, treatments, or recommendations of a professional. Consult with your trusted specialist if you have any doubts and seek their approval before beginning any procedure.