After a fun night with your partner, you wake up and notice these tiny white bumps on your genitals. Maybe they’ve been there all along. Maybe you got them from your partner last night. You swear you were safe, but could you have contracted an STD from your partner?
What are these spots, and what do they mean?
If the spots are white and painless, there’s a good chance they’re just Fordyce spots.
What Are Fordyce Spots?
Fordyce spots are visible sebaceous glands.
They can appear on the genitals, mouth or face. Named after dermatologist John Addison Fordyce, they look like tiny, painless bumps (or spots) that are either pale, white or red. These spots are usually 1-3 mm in diameter, and they can appear on the:
- Penile shaft
Fordyce spots look a lot like chicken skin.
Experts estimate that about 80% of people have Fordyce spots in their mouths. While common, these spots typically do not appear in large numbers and are more prominent in males.
These spots are normally invisible in children, but become more prominent after puberty and into adulthood.
Signs and Symptoms of Fordyce Spots
Fordyce spots on the shaft of the penis are more noticeable when the skin is stretched, or during an erection. Spots can also appear on the scrotum.
For women, Fordyce spots on the labia may not be as noticeable except during sexual activity. Some women do not know these spots are there until their partners point it out to them.
Fordyce spots on the lips are known as Oral Fordyce granules, and they look like rice granules. Typically, the spots are white or yellow-white in color. Most people get these spots along the upper lip or on the inside of the cheeks. Some people will get hundreds of granules, while others will only have one or two.
On occasion, adjacent glands will come together to form clusters, which may look like sebaceous hyperplasia.
When Fordyce glands are expressed, they secrete a thick and chalky substance.
What Causes Fordyce Spots?
Medical experts are still unsure of what causes Fordyce spots, but genetics is believed to play a role in whether or not certain people develop them.
The condition is not caused by a virus or an infection.
Most people will have these spots at birth, but they will not become prominent until they reach puberty.
Diagnosing Fordyce Spots
When these spots become noticeable, many people worry that they have herpes or another STD. Because there is no official diagnostic procedure for these spots, diagnosing the condition can be a little tricky.
Most doctors can determine whether it’s Fordyce spots or another medical condition simply through a visual examination.
If you notice these spots suddenly, it’s still important to see your doctor just to make sure that no other underlying medical condition is the cause.
Are Fordyce Spots an STD?
These spots are completely harmless and do not require treatment.
The only downside to having these spots is embarrassment.
While the condition does have a name, these spots are considered an anatomic variance and not a medical condition. Fordyce spots are benign.
Do Fordyce Spots Go Away?
Typically, Fordyce spots will go away on their own, but it may be several years before they disappear completely. In the meantime, there are treatment options available if you do want to minimize the appearance of these bumps.
Most doctors advise against treatment because it can sometimes do more harm than good. Because this is a completely benign and normal condition, treatment is not necessary and only performed for cosmetic purposes.
Laser Treatments and Electro Desiccation
Vaporizing laser treatments can be used to minimize the appearance of Fordyce bumps. Electro desiccation has also produced mildly successful results.
Some people have also found success with pulsed dye lasers, which are typically used to treat sebaceous gland hyperplasia. While expensive, this method of treatment is less likely to cause scarring compared to other laser treatment options.
For patients with very prominent spots, Micro-punch surgery has proven to be a successful treatment method.
Offering many healing properties, coconut oil can help minimize the appearance of these bumps or spots. Coconut oil has antimicrobial properties and works as an excellent moisturizer. With continued use, the oil can help make Fordyce spots less visible.
Some people have had success with tretinoin cream reducing the appearance of Fordyce bumps. The cream should be applied to the affected area daily, and delivers the best results when used with alpha hydroxy acid agents.
Tretinoin creams and gels are typically used to treat keratosis pilaris and acne.
As its name suggests, cryosurgery uses extremely cold temperatures to destroy Fordyce spots. This minimally-invasive procedure does produce mild scarring and pain. Pain medication may be prescribed to help with the localized pain that’s common after the procedure.
If you plan to take the “wait and see” approach, maintaining a healthy lifestyle may help make these spots disappear more quickly.
Ensure that you’re getting regular exercise and eating a balanced, healthy diet. A diet rich in vitamins A, B complex, C, D, E and K will help keep your skin and digestive system healthy.
Talk to your doctor if you notice any sudden changes with your genitals and about any lifestyle changes you may be considering to treat your Fordyce spots.