Sebaceous Hyperplasia is a fancy name for a condition where excess sebaceous glands appear in areas where they don’t normally. Sebaceous glands secrete oil from hair follicles in order to lubricate the hair and skin. We all have a number of these glands in our bodies, but some individuals produce extra ones in areas not directly related to the hair.

Fordyce’s Condition is a variation of sebaceous hyperplasia named for the American dermatologist who first described the condition. In Fordyce’s, individuals have small, yellowish or flesh colored bumps that can occur in the area where the lips meet the skin. In some cases, these growths will also occur on the genitals, chest and areola. The bumps are tiny, usually no more than 1 to 3 mm in diameter, but can become more noticeable when many bumps come together to form larger clusters.

What causes these skin conditions?

The root cause of the problem is still unknown. It tends to run in families. Neither sebaceous hyperplasia or Fordyce’s condition is contagious.

A decrease in androgen levels that occurs naturally during the aging process is thought to have a direct connection to development of this condition. UV radiation and improper function of the immune system are also thought to play a role, though the spots are also known to occur in areas that do not get regular exposure to sunlight.

Is there treatment for hyperplasia or Fordyce’s?

As it is not dangerous no treatment is necessary. Using Tretinoin cream or gel daily will reverse sebaceous hyperplasia slowly over time and will also help keep the condition from worsening.

If the lesions are becoming unsightly and you really feel something needs to be done, a powerful, expensive drug called Accutane will reverse the condition, but you will develop new lesions after you stop the medication unless you also use tretinoin cream regularly.

TCA chemical peels will also reverse sebaceous hyperplasia, but new lesions will occur slowly after treatment.

Fordyce’s condition is usually best left untreated.

Other surgical procedures that have been used with some success in treating the condition include electro desiccation, CO2 laser therapy and pulsed dye lasers. In most cases, these treatments do not provide permanent relief as the spots tend to recur. They can also cause some scarring, so any of these techniques should only be undertaken with extreme caution.

A study conducted between 2003 and 2011 looked into the efficacy of using a micro-punch technique for removing the spots. The results were generally satisfactory, with no signs of recurrence after as many as seven months. In most cases, doctors will recommend forgoing treatment as it is not generally effective and usually not permanent. Since treatment is only for cosmetic reasons, it is not considered urgent and may not be worth the risk of permanent scarring.