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June 10, 2011, last updated June 10, 2015
By L. Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
With so many warnings and public service announcements highlighting
the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), it is not a
surprise when many people become frighteningly alarmed when they
see red or white bumps on their genitalia. And if you have contracted
an STD, then you do have cause for concern—and should take steps to
treat or mitigate your condition. However, with Fordyce spots, which
are small, painless, red or white spots or bumps that range from 1 to
33 mm appearing on the shaft of the penis, you should not be alarmed.
Fordyce spots are named after J.A Fordyce who in 1896 first described
the whitish spots that can appear on the border of the lips, in the
mouth and on the genitals.
Also known as “sebaceous prominence” or "Fordyce granules",
because these spots are sebaceous glands without hair follicles,
Fordyce spots are not sexually transmitted. In fact, they are rather
common among most men, affecting from 70-80% of the entire
population. While they are harmless, they are often a cause of concern
for mostly cosmetic reasons. These spots usually occur in crops of 50
to 100 bumps. Some men worry that their sexual partners might be
turned off by the wart-like appearance of these spots. Others are
alarmed by the possibility that they might be sexually transmitted
diseases, which they are not. Although physicians typically do not
recommend treatment for these benign markings on your genitalia,
many men will seek to treat or reduce the appearances of these spots,
Causes of Fordyce Spots
While the true cause of these Fordyce spots remains a mystery, these
spots are believed to be caused by the natural oil of the skin, or sebum.
Normally, the sebaceous glands secrete the sebum into the hair follicle,
because these sebaceous glands lack any hair, the sebum might get
trapped, resulting in these bumps. Moreover, there appears to be a
genetic link. What is known is that it is not caused by viruses, that it is
not contagious, and that there is no need to fret about sexually
transmitted diseases if you discover that those spots are Fordyce spots.
Rather, it should be accompanied by a sigh of relief.
Top 10 Cures and Treatments for Fordyce Spots
While most doctors advise against treatment, many men will seek many
ways to reduce these cosmetically unattractive spots on their penises.
Treatments are not standard and individuals often seek alternative
ways to reduce the visibility of these bumps.
1. Leaving These Bumps Alone to Self-Resolve
Because Fordyce spots tend to go away without any treatment and
because they are completely harmless, this is the most recommended
approach. Moreover, since these bumps have a short life span, there is
no urgent need to treat them. With proper care and patience, these
Fordyce spots will be out of your life in no time!
After discovering that rather than the herpes that you thought you had,
you actually have a benign, self-resolving condition, you should be
relieved; however, your primary concern is probably cosmetic—inside
of you, a deep fear about what your sexual partner will think about
these white bumps. Rather than stress about this issue, discuss it with
others and you will come to find that you are not the only person to
have to deal with this issue. In fact, because such a huge population
has this problem, it is nothing to fret over. Let it take its course of
action and dissipate on its own.
2. Incorporate Garlic in Your Diet
Including garlic in your daily diet can be an effective remedy for these
spots since it will help to kill any bacteria in the bloodstream, reducing
the visibility of these spots. Because of the immense benefits of garlic,
incorporating this vegetable in your diet can be a great natural remedy
to ward off these bumps.
3. Maintain Good Personal Hygiene so the Bumps Don’t Get Worse
While maintaining good personal hygiene is essential in preventing
other health issues, not to mention polite to those around you, it is
necessary to avoid aggravating and worsening these Fordyce spots.
Skincare care around the genitalia may not necessarily fix the problem
completely, but it is vital in ensuring that the issue does not get worse.
4. Taking those Vitamins to Reduce the Spots
Maintaining a healthy diet rich with necessary vitamins, particularly
Vitamins B complex or folic acid, can help reduce the bumps, allowing
them to self-resolve much faster. Whether you take folic acid
supplements or whether you consume folic acid-rich foods, such as
dark leafy vegetables like asparagus or spinach, it is just important that
maintain a rich diet complete with this important element. Ensure that
you also take in C, A, D, E, and K. It will help expedite the process in
which these Fordyce spots resolve themselves.
5. CO2 Vaporizing Laser Treatments Reduce Visibility of Spots
Even though natural remedies and self-resolution are recommended by
doctors, laser treatments have demonstrated relative success in
reducing the visibility of sebaceous prominence. Vaporizing laser
treatments such as CO2 have diminished the appearance of these spots
with no residual Fordyce papules in the area. According to a 2003
Medipiel Centros Dermatológicos Study in Monterrey, Mexico, CO2
super-pulsed lasers have demonstrated a successful, safe, and effective
treatment of these bumps for cosmetic reasons; however, these
evaporative treatments can often leave scars.
6. Pulse Dye Laser Eliminates Fordyce Spots
Another less invasive laser treatment that has seen some success
among certain patients has been from pulse Dye Lasers. The laser used
in this particular treatment produces an intense, yet gentle burst of
yellow light onto the skin, which is absorbed by the skin’s blood
vessels. The vessels then coagulate, reabsorbing into the body in a
normal healing process. However, because this treatment does not
scar, it is usually relatively expensive. And given that this is a purely
cosmetic concern, you will have to consider the financial investment
you are making in going through with such as pricey procedure.
7. Using Gels and Creams to Treat Fordyce Spots
A popular topical ointment for Fordyce spots treatment is Tretinoin gel
or cream. While it is primarily utilized as a topical acne treatment, it may
be effective for these bumps if you apply it once daily to reduce the
prominence of these spots. Used in conjunction with alpha hydroxyl
agents, which can be purchased over the counter, Tretinoin cream, also
known as Retin-A Micro, can greatly diminish the visibility of your
Fordyce spots. It is used in many commercial dermatological products
utilized to slow aging, reduce stretch marks, and treat acne.
8. Chemical Peels Can Produce Significant Improvements in Spots
The Trichloroacetic chemical peel helps strip the skin off the spots,
which improves the appearance of the spots significantly; however,
because the chemical peel penetrates deeply, it can make the treated
area particularly sensitive. Consequently, you will need to ensure that
your genitalia is moisturized. While it is effective in eliminating the spots
when treated with chemical peel products, once the treatment is halted,
there is high probably that the patient will experience a recurrence of
the papules. Chemical peels might prove to be an effective treatment in
the short run, but for most individuals, it is definitely not a sustainable
approach to treating these spots!
9. Using Natural Extracts and Anti-Sebum Treatments to Eradicate the
One particular treatment is Anti-Sebum, which is a product that is made
with natural ingredients such as sage extract, Arganiz extract, and
Tocopherol—many homeopathic remedies that have seen some
treatment success. It acts as a sebum control, extracting the sebaceous
oils out of the spots, reducing the amount of sebum produced in the
treated area, and diminishing the overall visibility of these Fordyce
spots. Lastly, it also tightens the pores in this area. One great thing
about this particular treatment, if it proves successful, is that within
two weeks, you will see improvements and that after elimination of the
issue, using the product daily is no longer necessary. (Read more
about the anti sebum herb-based creams which work best against
10. Liquid Nitrogen Freezing Can Treat Fordyce’s Condition
Utilizing liquid nitrogen freezing, or cryosurgery, can be a potential
approach to treating your Fordyce spots. This treatment destroys the
bumps using cold temperatures and can be effective in eliminating
those cosmetically pesky spots on your genitalia. In addition to having
to make several visits to the doctor, there is also a chance that the
treatment can damage tissue or nerves in the treated area. In addition,
pain, redness and blisters can also occur post-treatment.
Fordyce spots are usually harmless. However, having Fordyce spots
often indicates that you have too much fat in your blood, a condition
known as hyperlipidemia, according to a 2014 study from Ajman
University in the UAE.
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