Fordyce Spots or, the name your doctor is likely to call them, sebaceous prominence, are the white or skin-coloured spots which suddenly crop up on your penis shaft or, less often, on your helmet or scrotum. They are small, painless and, maybe what you don’t realize, are extremely common; over a third of us blokes have them. Fordyce Spots are the result of over active skin (sebaceous) glands which block and form small granules under the skin. They appear in puberty and tend to hang around for a while BUT (and this is very important) Fordyce Spots occur in both men and women and are totally harmless.
What are the common misconceptions about them?
Firstly, Fordyce Spots on the penis are not male genital warts. Secondly, they are not a form of STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) or a result of STD symptoms; which means you cannot catch them from or pass them on to a sexual partner. Picking at or squeezing sebaceous prominence will not make them disappear; if anything, it may irritate them further. Having such spots on the penis is perfectly normal; sure, they’re not easy on the eye but with so many of the male population with the condition, there is no reason to panic.
How do sexual partners react to Fordyce Spots?
Because most men believe these white penis pimples are infectious they become anxious and actually avoid intimate situations. “Practically everyone I’ve ever seen naked has them, they are ridiculously common and not something I even react to.” This is a typical reaction by partners of those who have Fordyce Spots, clearly suggesting that those with the complaint are overly worried and that their resulting low self-esteem is unfounded.
Are Fordyce Spots treatments available?
You may find this frustrating but, as this is a perfectly natural phenomenon, most doctors advise against any medical treatment. However, some of us want them gone and some Fordyce Spots treatments are available and offer varying levels of success. Laser treatment is widely regarded as the most effective permanent removal method. The carbon dioxide laser treatments deliver excellent cosmetic results and although considered safe, may leave some scar tissue. An expensive alternative are the pulse Dye laser treatments which don’t scar but, again, their success varies from patient to patient.
Other invasive methods include micropunch surgery – which is the equivalent of hair follicle extraction, and electrocautery which involves the sebaceous glands being effectively burnt off (cauterized) with a fine electrical instrument. Both these techniques are in their infancy and need to be privately funded. As with the other treatments, there remains no guarantee that these Fordyce granules won’t return. The destruction of spots on the penis using extreme cold, or cryosurgery, is another route but tissue or nerve damage is a potential downside.
The application of Tretinoin gel or cream on to penis spots is a popular treatment but the success rate is mixed. This efficacy of this product (Renova is a brand quoted on many blog forums) is claimed to improve with the combined use of an alpha hydroxy agent. Improvement in the appearance of Fordyce Spots has also achieved by some using a TCA chemical peel or the acne wonder-drug, Accutane. It must be pointed out, however, these are merely treatments for acne and their results may be limited. Plus the fact that any progress made with a TCA peel is lost when the treatment is removed.
There is as much evidence that home treatments are just as helpful as those at clinical level. Home remedies such as garlic and folic acid in the diet; regular vitamin intake (A,C,D,E,K and B complex); keeping the penis away from oil-based products (Vaseline, baby oil etc.) and good personal hygiene can all potentially aid the reduction of sebaceous prominence.
What if none of the Fordyce Spots treatments work for me?
Don’t panic: these benign penis spots do fade away over time. A lot of over-anxious men spend a lot of time, effort and money trying to rid themselves of sebaceous prominence with little or no success. However, take some comfort from many other men with Fordyce Spots who recognize this as being a harmless skin occurrence and have healthy and active sex lives as a result.