What are Fordyce spots?

Causes of Fordyce spots on lips inclde high cholesterol, greasy skin, age, rheumatic disorders, and certain types of colorectal cancer.
Causes of Fordyce spots on lips inclde high cholesterol, greasy skin, age, rheumatic disorders, and certain types of colorectal cancer.

Fordyce spots, also known as Fordyce granules or Fordyce glands, are a common, harmless condition. They are slightly enlarged oil glands that are commonly found on your lips, inside your cheeks, and occasionally on your genitalia. Fordyce spots have no effect on your general health, and they may not even be visible on many people.

On most people, Fordyce spots are less than three millimeters wide, and appear white or pale yellow. These spots generally feel no different than other parts of the lips of cheeks, though they may occasionally get irritated because of their raised position. Fordyce spots are not a sign of conditions like herpes, cold sores, or acne.

While Fordyce spots are completely safe themselves, they may be a potential sign of other, more serious conditions. Recognizing the signs and causes of Fordyce spots can help you decide whether to talk to your doctor about these other conditions.

Types of Fordyce spots

Fordyce spots are considered a completely normal type of skin. Not only are they harmless, they are also considered a variant skin type, not a medical condition. While more studies need to be done to identify the exact cause of Fordyce spots, there are conditions which may be more common in people with these spots. Such include colorectal cancer and rheumatic disorders, as mentioned above.

One final condition that may be associated with Fordyce spots is high cholesterol. Early trials suggest that having more Fordyce spots on the lips and mouth may mean that you are more likely to have high cholesterol. This may be correlated to the amount of lipids in your blood.

Symptoms and signs of Fordyce spots

Fordyce spots may appear in as much as 80% of the population, but they are only noticeable in some people. Men appear to have noticeable Fordyce spots about twice as often as women. There are many potential causes for this.

Other symptoms often correlated with Fordyce spots include:

Greasy skin

People with oily or greasy skin types are more likely to have noticeable Fordyce spots than people with dry skin types. This may be connected to the fact that Fordyce glands are oil glands; people who naturally produce more skin oils may be more prone to enlarged oil glands in general.

Age

While Fordyce spots can appear at any age, they are more likely to first appear during puberty or middle adulthood. This may be linked to the oil production patterns of these ages. It may also explain why infants rarely ever have visible Fordyce spots.

Rheumatic disorders

While there is no known link between the two conditions, people with rheumatic disorders appear to be more likely to develop Fordyce spots as they age.

Certain types of colorectal cancer

As with rheumatic disorders, people with Fordyce spots appear to be more likely to experience certain types of colorectal cancer. This trend appears to run in families, so having a relative with Fordyce spots who developed colorectal cancer may mean that you are more likely to develop this cancer if you also have Fordyce spots.

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When to see a doctor for Fordyce spots

If you have white bumps on your lips or inside your cheeks, you should discuss them with your physician. They will be able to examine you to determine whether you have harmless Fordyce spots or something more serious, such as thrush or oral herpes.

Your doctor will do an oral examination and may take a swab of your cheeks or gums. This swab will be tested for the presence of bacteria or viruses. If the test comes back negative, then you most likely have Fordyce spots.

Treatments for Fordyce spots

There is no need to treat Fordyce spots for your health. They are common and harmless, so as long as they are not bothering you, they can be left alone.

If you dislike your Fordyce spots or find them aesthetically unappealing, there are a few potential cosmetic treatments you may consider. Some dermatologists offer laser treatments to both remove the spots and prevent them from coming back, however, these treatments may leave scars. Others recommend oral isotretinoin, which may only be taken for short periods of time.

Finally, some trials have found that chemical cauterization may be successful without leaving significant scarring or discoloration. To choose the cosmetic removal treatment that will work best for you, reach out to your physician.

How do I get rid of age spots naturally?

Skin changes are a fact of life for most people. Your skin is the protective barrier that shields your internal organs and bones from harm, including solar damage. In the process, the skin itself gets damaged. 

One symptom of skin damage is dark spots on the skin. These are sometimes called age spots. Small patches of skin take on a darker tint than the surrounding skin. The causes are usually post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, hormonal changes, and sun exposure. 

Most dark spots are harmless, though you may not like the way they look. There are many products that you can get from the store or a doctor that will lighten dark spots. If you try an all-natural method, you can use ingredients from your own kitchen. 

Learn more about age spots, what to do about them, and what natural ingredients you can use. 

The dark spots that appear on your hands and face are the result of deposits of extra melanin. Melanin is a naturally occurring chemical that gives skin its color. When you produce extra melanin in one particular spot, the skin in that area will look darker than the skin around it. 

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

Your skin can overproduce melanin in response to injury or irritation. Acneinsect bites, or psoriasis can all trigger post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. After the irritation heals, you may notice a dark or rough spot left behind. These usually fade with time. 

Hormonal changes

Pregnancy and hormonal contraceptives can trigger melanin overproduction. The resulting discoloration is known as melasma. It can fade over time or but it can be permanent in some people. 

Sun damage

Dark spots due to sun exposure are very common. The age spots on your face, arms, and hands are often the result of time in the sun. They can get darker over time, particularly if you continue to get sun exposure. 

Treating age spots

You can speed up the process of fading age spots by exfoliating the skin. Removing the top layers will brighten the overall appearance of the skin. It will also speed cell turnover. The darkened cells will naturally slough off, and lighter skin will replace them. 

You can exfoliate using natural ingredients such as alpha-hydroxy acids. These acids, including glycolic acid, lactic acid, and citric acid, are often listed as active ingredients in skincare products. They’re known for their ability to exfoliate and clean skin.

Alpha hydroxy acids are found in common foods such as fruit, sour milk or yogurt, or sugarcane. You can harness the exfoliating power of these foods by applying them as skin treatments: 

Vinegar

Mix apple cider vinegar with water and dab it on the dark spot. Rinse after 15 minutes.

Citrus

Dab lemon juice or grapefruit juice on dark spots and leave on for 15 minutes. You can mix the juice with water if your skin is sensitive.

Sugar scrub

Add a small amount of citrus juice or cider vinegar to a homemade sugar scrub. Mix the liquid with a handful of brown sugar and a few drops of oil such as sunflower oil. Scrub your face gently, then rinse.

Yogurt

Unsweetened yogurt can be a soothing mask for your face, as well as potentially helping face age spots. You can mix it with honey for anti-inflammatory effects.

These treatments will all take many weeks to show effects. Skin turnover takes time. You can expect to see fading in 3-6 months. 

Skincare products

If DIY skincare doesn’t give you the results you want, you can try over-the-counter products. Look for ingredients that are known to help with hyperpigmentation, inducing: 

  • Azelaic acid
  • Glycolic acid
  • Kojic acid
  • Retinoids
  • Vitamin C

If the over-the-counter formulations aren’t effective, a dermatologist can give you prescription-strength creams containing hydroquinone or tretinoin. You can also discuss non-invasive skincare procedures that fade age spots more quickly than creams and lotions. Microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and laser treatments are all effective at fading age spots on skin. 

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Other considerations

In some cases, dark spots are a sign of skin cancer. If you have a dark spot that is raised, has an irregular shape, or changes rapidly, contact your doctor immediately. Skin cancer is easiest to treat when it is caught early.

Once you have faded any dark spots you already have, you can take steps to prevent them from coming back. Using sunscreen will protect your skin from future sun damage. Protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and staying in the shade will also keep your skin safe from sun damage. 

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Medically Reviewed on 4/7/2022
References
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology: "Fordyce Spots."

Annals of Dermatology: "Clinicopathologic Manifestations of Patients with Fordyce's Spots."

Dental Research Journal: "Can presence of oral Fordyce's granules serve as a marker for hyperlipidemia?"

Gut: "Fordyce granules and hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer syndrome."

Journal de biologie buccale: "Fordyce's spots: disease, heterotopia or adenoma? Histological and ultrastructural study."

Scully, C. Oral and Maxillofacial Medicine (Third Edition), Churchill Livingstone, 2013.

American Academy of Dermatology Association: "HOW TO FADE DARK SPOTS IN SKIN OF COLOR." "HOW TO SAFELY EXFOLIATE AT HOME." "WHAT CAN GET RID OF AGE SPOTS?"

American Cancer Society: "Skin Cancer."

American Osteopathic College of Dermatology: "HYPERPIGMENTATION."

Dermatocare: "HOMEMADE SCRUB: DIY BY DERMATOLOGIST."

Green, Dr. Michele M.D.: "How To Remove Age Spots Naturally."

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