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Fordyce's Condition is no reason to panic

It is a skin condition in which small and elevated yellow growths develop in groups on the lips, in the mouth, tongue, cheeks, female labia, and the penis. You may sometimes find it on the lower lip as well, even though it is rare. The small yellow spots are caused by an overgrowth of the sebaceous glands. They are sebaceous glands without hair follicles. It is not dangerous at all and very common under young adults. There is no correlation between Fordyce’s Condition and systemic conditions.

Fordyce’s Condition increases from childhood to adults. It is more prevalent in men. The condition is found in almost 90 percent of adult men. They may appear as single lesions or as symmetrical groups of 50. The spots are 2 to 5 mm in diameter. Surrounding tissue is not affected by the growth of the lesions. The lesion derived its name from the person who first wrote about it in 1896, John Addison Fordyce. They may cause embarrassment when they appear on the genitals, but they are harmless and cannot be sexually transmitted. They don’t have any function in the mouth and there are no pathologic changes that can be associated with them.

Causes of Fordyce’s Condition

The cause for it is still unknown, but there seems to be a generic link. It is not caused by viruses and isn’t contagious. The papules are present at birth but only become prevalent when the child reaches puberty.

Diagnosis of the condition

The doctor diagnoses it through visual inspection. The yellow color of the papules and the location is normally and indication of ectopic sebaceous glands as it sometimes called. Warts are sometimes confused with Fordyce’s Condition because the vermilion border is involved in both instances. Some sexually transmitted diseases may look like Fordyce’s Condition and the doctor will take a biopsy or blood sample if they appear on the genitals.

Treatment recommendations for the appearance of the yellow papules

  1. There is no treatment needed, but you can apply Tretinoin gel or cream daily to the affected areas. It will reverse the effects over time and prevent it from getting worse. Tretinoin is works best when it is used in combination with alpha hydroxyacid agents. It is normally used to treat acne.
  2. If the condition persists you can use Accutane. It will reappear when you stop the treatment unless you keep on using Tretinoin gel or cream afterwards. Accutane has several side-effects such as chapped lips, joint and muscle pains, temporary hair thinning, dry skin, itching, intestinal problems, nosebleed, irritation of the eyes, rash, urinary problems, poor night vision, depression, and headaches. Pregnant woman should avoid it. It may also cause damage to the liver. Consult your doctor before you use it.
  3. TCA chemical peels are sometimes prescribed, but Fordyce’s Condition return as soon as treatment is stopped.
  4. You can remove it with laser vaporization.
  5. It is sometimes removed with diathermy or liquid nitrogen freezing.
  6. Don’t pick or scratch the spots.

Since Fordyce’s Condition is harmless and appears in most adults, there is no reason to panic. You only need to get treatment for the lesions when they are ugly and cause real embarrassment. It should not interfere with lovemaking because they are painless. Young boys sometimes panic and think they have done something wrong, but a visit to the doctor sets them at ease. It seems that once we know the exact cause for these strange yellow spots, treatment will be in order. It is sometimes confused with other skin diseases. Since the cause is unknown, we cannot recommend a specific diet or vitamin supplements. It is however always good to keep oral hygiene and to eat a balanced diet that includes folic acid, Vitamins C, A, D, E, K and B complex. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to build the immune system. Garlic helps to kill any bacteria in the bloodstream and the mouth, and folic acid is needed for normal metabolism. Proper skin care around the genital areas is important but is not related to the appearance of the spots. Treatment is only needed in severe cases, but the condition normally clears up on its own.

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