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what are fordyce spots

By: RSC Editorial Team

July 5, 2022

What Are Fordyce Spots: Are They Caused by STD?

Have you noticed white bumps around your genitals or mouth and felt alarmed that it might be an STD? The issue could be Fordyce spots, which look similar to common STD symptoms. 

So, what are Fordyce spots? Fordyce spots are harmless white papules, or bumps, on the external surface of your skin. 

Since these bumps mimic the symptoms of other dangerous diseases, you must understand the key differences and get tested if you think you might have an STD. Below, our team at Rapid STD Testing discusses everything you need to know about Fordyce spots, common risk factors, misconceptions, and treatment options. 

Are Fordyce Spots Normal? Why Fordyce Spots Occur

Fordyce bumps are visible ectopic sebaceous glands (oil glands) without hair follicles around one to five millimeters in size with an opaque yellow or white appearance. You might have one bump, though usually, they cluster together in larger groups of 50 to 100. You can see the spots easier by stretching your skin. 

The bumps typically appear in the following locations:

  • Inner cheeks
  • Lips
  • Esophagus
  • Penis shaft and head
  • Foreskin
  • Labia 
  • Vulva
  • Vagina
  • Areola

Are Fordyce spots normal? Yes, 80% of adults have Fordyce spots, many of which form at birth and become more present after puberty. 

Fordyce penile papules are incredibly common, especially around the foreskin. The bumps are normal variants in your skin's texture and anatomy.

When considering why Fordyce spots occur, you should first know that usually, oil glands connect to a hair follicle, which often makes the gland less noticeable. Without the hair follicle, the harmless bump appears more noticeable. 

Misconceptions About Fordyce Spots and STDs

Dermatologist John Fordyce discovered Fordyce spots. Bumps might sit flat against your skin or raise slightly. Sometimes they secrete a thick substance when squeezed, though dermatologists advise against picking at them to prevent scarring and infections. 

If you’ve had the same bumps all your life, more often than not, they’re Fordyce spots, though if they only recently appeared, you might have a different issue. Aside from STDs, bumps could also indicate the following conditions:

  • Milia: This condition is a build-up of unwanted tissue causing small pimples or cysts on the skin. Milia is most common in babies. 
  • Folliculitis: Frequently called ingrown hairs, folliculitis is an inflammatory skin condition that happens from a build-up of bacteria inside the hair follicles. 
  • Basal cell carcinoma: This form of skin cancer usually develops around areas of your skin that experience high sun exposure. 

Skin cancer is a severe and often fatal condition that requires intensive treatment. You should see a doctor immediately anytime you notice bumps that weren’t there. Your medical advisor will examine the area, diagnose the issue, and offer a review of treatment options so you can resolve any problems before they progress.

The online search traffic for the query, “what are Fordyce spots?” displays how many people frequently confuse this common ailment with infectious warts, STDs, or other illnesses. Luckily, Fordyce spots are not contagious and don’t cause any irritating symptoms or medical concerns.

Conditions like HPV and herpes might create similar bumps, though most people also experience itching, pain, burning sensations while urinating, redness, inflammation, and other uncomfortable reactions. If you notice any of those symptoms along with your bumps, you should order a rapid STD test from Rapid STD Testing or visit a local clinic. 

The bumps occasionally appear similar to genital warts (HPV), herpes, molluscum contagiosum, and syphilis.


Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a widespread STD that typically presents as genital warts on affected individuals. The more common type of HPV leaves patients with painful and itchy sores that occasionally flare up at random points during their lives. The virus has no cure, though you can receive a vaccination against the most dangerous strain that can develop into cervical cancer.  


Herpes also causes irritating sores that begin small but can develop into large scabs over time. The bumps usually appear around the genital region or mouth, depending on where you got infected. Bodily fluids spread the virus, meaning you can contract it through sex or simply sharing a straw with a friend. 

Molluscum Contagiosum

This viral skin infection causes benign, small, hard bumps that usually don’t hurt but may itch. Molluscum contagiosum spreads through any skin-to-skin contact, including sex. Usually, the symptoms resolve on their own without medical treatment. 


This bacterial infection begins as a painless bump before developing into a rash. Untreated syphilis eventually attacks the individual’s nervous system, eyes, heart, and brain. With proper diagnosis and antibiotic treatment, you can treat syphilis before developing severe and fatal symptoms.

Ways to Get Rid of Fordyce Spots

Now that we’ve answered “what are Fordyce spots,” let’s discuss how to get rid of them. Fordyce spots aren’t infectious and don’t cause you harm, though many still choose to remove them for aesthetic purposes.

You must first visit your doctor to confirm your diagnosis. Usually, your dermatologist can identify the condition without needing a biopsy, though, with larger or discolored bumps, they may need to test you for other possible complications. After diagnosis, patients typically have the following options:

  • Laser resurfacing: CO2 lasers remove the outermost layers of skin with carbon dioxide to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, scars, acne, and Fordyce spots. You might experience swelling, redness, and sun sensitivity for a few weeks after the procedure. 
  • Pulsed dye lasers: If your glands become too enlarged, causing you to develop sebaceous gland hyperplasia, your doctor might recommend pulsed dye lasers. This treatment costs more but leaves less noticeable scarring. 
  • Isotretinoin: Isotretinoin, commonly called Accutane, is a strong prescription medication used to treat severe acne. The vitamin A retinol reduces skin inflammation, which can help dissolve Fordyce spots, though this drug has a few severe side effects. 
  • Micro-punch surgery: This procedure involves using a pen-like tool to punch out the individual bumps from affected areas. Micro-punch surgery is the most painful option and usually requires anesthesia, which comes with added risks. 

Can Fordyce Spots Just Disappear?

No, Fordyce spots won’t go away on their own. If you’re concerned about their appearance, consult your doctor about the options above. 

Many people struggle with a lack of confidence and poor self-image, and pimples on the penis, mouth, or other genital areas might feel embarrassing. Resolving Fordyce spots could help ease anxiety during sex and restore a positive self-image. 

If unsure of the cause of your bumps, order a 10-panel STD test online or visit a local clinic to rule out some of the more dangerous possibilities. 

How To Know if You Have Fordyce Spots: Get Tested Today 

Not sure whether you have Fordyce bumps or an STD? Learn how to know if you have Fordyce spots by visiting a local clinic. 

Our team at Rapid STD Testing aims to answer your questions, like “what are Fordyce spots, and how do I get rid of them?” To understand the cause of your bumps, schedule an appointment for same-day STD testing at a Rapid STD Testing clinic near you.


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By: RSC Editorial Team
July 5, 2022

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