Fordyce spots are small raised yellowish or skin coloured pimples usually found in clusters on the shaft of the penis, vulva, testicles, and lips. Common in both men and women, they affect an estimated 70-80% of the population with the condition more prevalent in men.
Fordyce spots occur on various mucous membranes. They are commonly found on the vermillion border of the lips, inside the cheeks, and on the nipples (where they are known as Montgomery tubercles). For men they are found on the shaft of the penis, the foreskin, especially near the head of the penis (Tyson’s gland), and on the scrotum. For women the spots are mainly found on the labia minora, but may also be found in the entrance to the vagina.
Fordyce spots are enlarged sebaceous glands. The function of Sebaceous glands is to produce and release a natural oil known as Sebum into the hair follicle to lubricate the skin. In the case of Fordyce spots, there is no hair follicle, and the Sebum is blocked resulting in raised bumps.
Regular sebaceous glands produce sebum and are found within hair follicles, whereas Fordyce spots are found without hair follicles, abnormally positioned visibly protruding from the skin.
The spots or bumps occur naturally at birth, but usually appear for the first time around puberty. Evidence suggests the incidence tends to increase with age.
How do I know if I have Fordyce Spots?
Fordyce Spots typically present with the following
Small bumps measuring 0.2mm-3mm.
Yellow, pinkish, or skin coloured.
When the skin is stretched, they are easier to see and can resemble small grains of rice.
Sometimes found as single spots, but more commonly found in clusters of 50 or more.
Most commonly located on the lips, penis, scrotum and vagina.
They are not painful, but can occasionally be itchy, especially after sexual intercourse.
While harmless, Fordyce spots are a source of worry for many. Men are understandably very concerned when they first notice spots on their penis, and are often worried they may have an STI or even some form of cancer. On a personal level, they are usually worried about their penis’ appearance, and what their sexual partner might think. For both sexes, these spots in the genital area can lead to sufferers avoiding intimacy or sexual activity, which in turn can cause depression.
Fordyce spots on and around the mouth and lips can also cause anxiety and concern in both sexes. As with the genital spots, sufferers naturally worry that the spots on their lips will lead others to think they have an STI.