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  5. Fordyce Spots (White Bumps) On Lips: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments & Risk Factors

Have you ever had a cluster of tiny white bumps around your lips? Do you know of anyone who may have had them on the inside of their mouths too? Well, these are known as Fordyce spots and are a fairly common condition.

Fordyce spots are usually seen on the outside line of the lips. In some rare cases, they are also found on the male and female genitalia. Find out all about this condition and how to have it treated in this article.

What Are Fordyce Spots?

Enlarged oil glands are known as Fordyce granules, glands or Fordyce spots [1]. They don’t cause any pain or itching and are not infectious either. They usually appear on the outer edges of the lips or inside the cheeks. They are known to appear on areas of the face or body where there is no hair.

Fordyce spots are quite common and appear as bumps that are spread out; in some cases they appear in clusters. Rarely, they appear on the penis or the scrotum in men and on the labia in women.

At What Age Do Fordyce Spots Occur?

Fordyce spots can occur at any age. They are present in 70-80 percent of the adult population [2]. However, they usually become visible during one’s teenage years.

Causes Of Fordyce Spots

There is no specific cause for the presence of Fordyce spots. We are born with them as they are present in our bodies. But, they become visible when we attain puberty and they get enlarged due to the hormonal changes the body goes through. People with oily skin, both men and women, are more prone to having Fordyce spots.

Identifying Fordyce Spots

Fordyce spots are white or a pale yellow in colour. They can also be the same colour as your skin. Their size ranges between 1-3 mm in diameter; sometimes they may be bigger. When they appear in your genitalia, the spots may be red.

They appear in clusters and form in a symmetrical fashion on the outside lines of both your lips. Sometimes, they can be seen inside the mouth -- on the inside of the lips and the cheeks. If you stretch your skin, they can be clearly seen. Otherwise, they are so tiny you can hardly see them.

There are some conditions related to the skin that might be mistaken for Fordyce spots. These include:

  • A kind of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma [3]. It has symptoms that include a growth, a lump or a red patch.
  • A condition called sebaceous hyperplasia [4] which causes small, white, soft bumps.
  • Milium cysts [5] are also white and round bumps that are sometimes seen on the face, but these are hard to touch.
  • Small hard bumps that are formed under the skin’s layers, which are known as epidermoid cysts [6].

Did You Know?

  • Fordyce spots on the penis can bleed while having intercourse. But, that happens very rarely.
  • When Fordyce spots appear in one’s genitalia, whether male or female, they can be mistaken for an STD or a genital wart.

Treatment Of Fordyce Spots

Since Fordyce spots don’t cause any pain, itching or any other problem, they can be left alone. But since they can impact your appearance, Fordyce spots can be removed through the following treatments:

1. Medical Treatments

A. Laser Therapy

The dermatologist may use laser treatments of different wavelengths to remove the spots. When removed with a carbon dioxide laser treatment, they may cause scarring. Another option is a pulsed dye laser treatment, which costs more but may leave fewer scars.

B. Topical Applications

To remove Fordyce spots, your dermatologist may also prescribe topical tretinoin [7] or oral isotretinoin [8]. Formulations having bichloracetic acid [9] as an ingredient may also be recommended.

Note

A combination of laser and topical treatments may also be suggested, though this option may cause side effects like a tingling, burning feeling on the skin or even inflammation of the skin.

C. Micro-Punch Surgery

Micro-punch surgery is a procedure, where the doctor removes Fordyce spots from your genital area or your face at a fast pace. A device similar to a pen is used to remove the spots and other unwanted tissue after punching the skin with it.

Since this is a painful procedure, local anaesthesia may be given to lessen the pain. But, once the procedure is complete, there are no scars or other side effects. The Fordyce spots do not recur either, even after a year of the procedure according to a study [10].

Fordyce spots can be cauterised or electrodessication can be used to remove them.

2. Home Remedies

A. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is astringent and antibacterial in nature. A solution of ACV and water mixed in equal proportions, applied on the spots twice a week, can help. Wash off after a while. The astringent property of ACV acts as a toner and normalises the oil and sebum levels in your skin.

B. Garlic

A concoction of garlic flakes ground with water and lemon juice taken on an empty stomach can assist in the reduction of Fordyce spots. Garlic in general has a lot of good qualities that reduce bacteria in our bodies.

C. Jojoba And Argan Oil

Jojoba oil contains vitamin E, which helps to nourish the skin and reduce the size of enlarged pores. This in turn will reduce the excess sebum secretion. Argan oil also helps to balance the oil secretion levels of the skin. Mix both oils in equal proportion and apply. Rinse after ten minutes.

D. Coconut Oil

Applying coconut oil mixed with a few drops of lavender oil may also help reduce Fordyce spots. That is because coconut oil moisturises the skin, which may have gone dry due to extra sebum production, causing the spots. Leave on for a few hours, then rinse off.

Risk Factors

Fordyce spots may be linked to health conditions such as cancer. A study [11] conducted on the link between Fordyce spots and cancer found that all the participants who had these spots in their mouth had a form of colorectal cancer [12] that was hereditary in nature.

Another risk factor with having a lot of Fordyce spots in your mouth is a condition called hyperlipidemia [13]. In this condition, the level of fat in the blood is high, which puts you at risk of heart disease [14].

If members of a family have Fordyce spots, this study suggests that their presence can help detect the risk of them having cancer well before it appears. However, more research on the matter is required.

Can Fordyce Spots Suddenly Appear?

Fordyce spots may appear at any time in one’s life. But the chances of their appearance increase as we age. Their first appearance can be during puberty when the oil and sebum secretion of the skin is heightened due to hormonal activity.

When To See A Doctor?

Fordyce spots are harmless and don’t cause any ailments. However, if you have these spots, you might find them to be a cosmetic problem as they may look and feel unpleasant. Most times, they are not even clearly visible. If you want them removed, consult a dermatologist.

If there are spots present on your genitalia, consult a doctor. They may not necessarily be Fordyce spots; they could be symptomatic of an STD. The doctor can confirm what they are and prescribe the right treatment for the spots.

How Are Fordyce Spots Diagnosed?

Most doctors can correctly diagnose Fordyce spots from their appearance. If they are present in your mouth, the doctor may even conduct a biopsy to rule out any form of cancer.

Can You Pop Fordyce Spots?

No, popping or squeezing Fordyce spots is not advisable. They don’t vanish by doing so and in fact, may cause an infection.

Wrapping Up

Fordyce spots are a benign occurrence that are present in 80 percent of the population. They are normal and harmless. If at all they are causing you any discomfort, physically or cosmetically, you can have them removed by a professional.

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