Understanding Fordyce Spots and Their Treatments

Fordyce spots are a common dermatological condition characterized by small, raised, pale, red or white spots or bumps on the skin. Typically harmless, these spots can appear on various parts of the body, including the lips, inside of the cheeks, and the genital area. They are ectopic sebaceous glands, meaning they are oil glands that are located where they aren’t usually found. Understanding Fordyce spots, their nature, and the available treatment options, including advanced methods like CO2 laser treatment, can be helpful for those seeking to manage their appearance.

What are Fordyce Spots?

Fordyce spots, also known as Fordyce granules, are visible sebaceous glands without hair follicles. These glands are naturally occurring and are present in all individuals, but they are not typically visible. The visibility of Fordyce spots is what differentiates them as a unique dermatological condition. They are most commonly found in the following areas:

  • Lips: Spots appear along the border of the lips, especially on the upper lip.
  • Genitals: Spots may appear on the shaft of the penis, the scrotum, the labia, or near the vagina.
  • Oral Mucosa: Spots can appear on the inner surface of the cheeks and on the gums.
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Causes of Fordyce Spots

The exact cause of Fordyce spots is not fully understood, but they are believed to be a natural variation in the skin rather than a disease. These spots are not contagious, not painful, and have no association with any infections or diseases. They tend to become more apparent with age and are more commonly observed in males than in females.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Fordyce spots are mostly asymptomatic, meaning they generally do not cause any discomfort or pain. They are identified by their distinct appearance as small, pale-yellow or white bumps, which can be isolated or clustered. Diagnosis of Fordyce spots is typically straightforward and can usually be done by a dermatologist through visual inspection. No specific tests are required as they have a characteristic appearance that is easily recognizable by healthcare professionals.

Treatments for Fordyce Spots

While treatment is not medically necessary, some individuals may choose to treat Fordyce spots for cosmetic reasons. The following are some of the common treatment methods:

  1. Topical Creams: Retinoids and other topical creams can sometimes be used to reduce the prominence of the spots. These treatments may cause skin irritation or peeling.

  2. Electrodesiccation: This involves using electric currents to remove the spots. It can be effective but may sometimes lead to scarring.

  3. Cryotherapy: Freezing the spots with liquid nitrogen can reduce their appearance, though there is a risk of pigmentation changes in the treated area.

  4. Laser Treatments: Advanced laser treatments, such as the CO2 laser, have become popular due to their precision and reduced risk of scarring.

CO2 Laser Treatment

CO2 laser treatment stands out as a particularly effective method for removing Fordyce spots. This treatment uses a concentrated beam of light to vaporize and destroy the abnormal sebaceous glands. Here’s a deeper look into the procedure:

  • Procedure: The area to be treated is numbed using a local anesthetic. The CO2 laser is then directed at the Fordyce spots to remove them. The precision of the laser prevents damage to surrounding tissues.
  • Recovery: Post-treatment, patients may experience mild swelling and redness for a few days. Healing typically occurs within a week or two. The recovery period is usually short, and patients can resume normal activities quickly.
  • Efficacy: CO2 laser is highly effective for removing Fordyce spots with minimal risk of scarring. Most patients achieve good cosmetic outcomes, and the recurrence of spots in the treated areas is rare.


Fordyce spots are a benign and common condition that typically require no medical treatment. However, for those who are self-conscious about their appearance, there are several treatment options available, with CO2 laser therapy being one of the most effective and advanced treatments. It is crucial for individuals considering any form of treatment to consult with a dermatologist to understand the risks, benefits, and potential outcomes. This ensures that they make an informed decision based on their personal needs and health circumstances.