Skin Tags - Causes, Symptoms, Removal and Treatment
What are Skin Tags?
If you have skin tags, especially in a noticeable area on your body such as on your face or neck, it is likely that you will want to remove them. Skin tags tend to grow in those areas where the skin is relaxed such as around the eyes, under the armpits, on the neck or even in the groin.
Table of Contents:Causes
Skin Tags vs Warts
Causes of Skin Tags
There is no known cause for why a skin tag develops as of yet, under a microscope someone will tell you it looks like the skin envelope itself, overlaps in a way and causes a lump which then becomes infected. There is also no reason to treat or remove skin tags unless the appearance bothers the person carrying them. Someone who has a skin tag may notice that it is a darker pigment than that of the skin, or more flat than other skin tags on the body.
There are various methods of skin tag removal products and formats so you have plenty of choice:
Those bodybuilders who use illegal steroids can actually cause skin tags due to the effects of the pills or drugs they are ingesting. Steroid use can cause the collagen fibers to bond in such a way that skin tags are formed. Changes in hormones in a woman's body can cause skin tags to grow.
Insulin rejection, which may be caused by diabetes or some other factor in the body, can affect the growth of skin tags. Insulin resistance is known as 'syndrome X' there a number of things in the body that can cause strange things to appear. Skin tags are very common in women maybe due to the fact a lot of women get pregnant and hormones are affected.
The Appearance of Skin Tags
Some people may have a skin tag or growth which raises itself off the skin forming a peduncle. The peduncle is a small thick piece of skin which almost gives the skin tag a branch like formation from which it hangs down from. Skin tags are not dangerous to have but are considered tumors because of the fact they grow on the body areas. Body skin tags can cause discomfort if in an area with a lot of contact such as a shirt collar or the groin area when walking. If a skin tag is irritated enough that it can become sore and painful, even though skin tags are not attached to the skin deeply they can still cause pain if one tries to treat skin tags or a neck chain cuts them open. In this case it is preferable to find treatment.
Types of Skin Tags
Anal Skin Tags
Anal skin tags are not the result of anal intercourse or sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, they are often associated with anal fissures, hemorrhoids and other rectal problems or surgeries.
Anal fissures, or tears, can occur from consistently hard stools. Skin tags may develop around these areas as the body attempts to heal itself. Rectal surgery recovery typically encourages skin tags as the healing skin is swollen. Skin cell rejuvenation may quickly get out of hand, effectively creating anal skin tags.
Hemorrhoids, or swollen anus veins, enlarge the anus area, and may cause skin tags to erupt. They may feel swollen themselves from the blood supply coursing through them. Although anal skin tags are not harmful themselves, you should take their presence as a sign to see a doctor about any associated issues including painful hemorrhoids.
Body Skin Tags
Body skin tags are also found on the neck and chest which can be irritating for people wearing jewelry as the tags may get snagged and bleed. Women may be self conscious of their appearance with skin tags present.
The armpit region is another area where skin tags are often found. This can cause discomfort or chaffing and is a nuisance for women wanting to shave that area. The groin area is another area of the body that skin tags grow which has its own set of issues.
Genital Skin Tags
Genital skin tags are fleshy growths that protrude from the groin, anus or vagina. They have several different shapes and colors, including wrinkled or smooth textures, and dark or light hues. They can even attach to the skin differently, from flat orientations to stalked types that dangle. You may have one or a group of skin tags in one concentrated area as well. Genital skin tags, however, are benign and harmless to your health. Sexually transmitted diseases are not associated with these growths either.
Most genital skin tags are not considered medically necessary to remove under most insurance policies. Visit your doctor to see if any of your genital skin tags are part of a larger problem. For instance, the chafing movement down in the genital area can cause tags to swell and become irritated. They can even bleed if the friction is strong enough. Go over any comfort issues with your doctor, along with any digestive issues for anal skin tags, in particular.
Treatment for skin tags often involves excision to physically cut the growths from the body. Doctors use local anesthesia for a small tag grouping, but extensive tags must be removed with general anesthesia. For the best appearance, many people opt for laser surgery which effectively cauterizes the tags from the body. Cryotherapy, using liquid nitrogen, is a tried-and-true treatment option as well. There are natural alternative treatments available to remove skin tags which are less invasive.
Vaginal Skin Tags
Skin tags in the vaginal area are surprisingly common. These benign (non-cancerous) skin growths are more often an embarrassment than an actual medical problem and most women will want to have these vaginal skin tags treated if at all possible. It is extremely rare for a skin tag to be cancerous, even genital skin tags and vaginal skin tags.
Groin Skin Tags
Groin skin tags mostly take on the appearance of unwanted skin and do not usually cause much embarrassment. It is the penile skin tags which may grow at the head of the penis which cause more concern. Unfortunately, any abnormality in the penis is thought to be linked to sexually transmitted disease (even though this is untrue). Often skin tags on the penis occur at the circumcision line because of uneven removal of skin at the time of being circumcised.
Skin Tags vs. Molluscum Contagiosum
Molluscum contagiosum is a skin condition which affects children more than adults. Molluscum is best described as a zit with an indent in the center. It is extremely contagious and eczema often accompanies it. Molluscum contagiosum is a virus which arises from the same strain as that of chickenpox, the pox virus.
Molluscum is spread through contact and affects many children as they do tend to play together. If a person already has molluscum, it can be spread through itching. Although molluscum is non itchy, it is usually seen with eczema and can therefore affect the spread of molluscum as the two are so close together that when a child scratches the eczema, he also scratches the molluscum.
Although molluscum and skin tags are very different, they may be confused by people who have never had them. Molluscum and skin tags are both pink. Molluscum, unlike skin tags, are indented zit-like forms which look a lot like pimples and come in clusters. Skin tags are longer and formed of actual skin rather than the blisters of molluscum.
Molluscum will never hang off a stalk unlike skin tags. Molluscum will be totally round and will not have an odd shape to it like a skin tag would. Unlike skin tags, molluscum can come in bunches at a time and is frequently seen in those who have eczema outbreaks.
Skin Tags vs. Warts
Skin tags are fleshy growths that protrude from the skin in either a flat, flushed shape or dangling from a peduncle. They are typically the same color as your skin, or slightly darker. Referred to in the scientific community as acrochordon, tags appear within armpits, on eyelids and even in the genital area. Although they may appear alarming, they are simply excessive skin growth formed into a flap.
Unlike skin tags, warts are contagious. Exposure to a wart, such as through sexual contact, can cause new warts to form. They do not dangle like skin tags, but have a cylindrical shape with pink or white hues. They can even appear in clumps, resembling cauliflowers, on the skin. Although they are unsightly, warts are not particularly painful, unless they are irritated through chafing, including genital warts.
What Causes Each Condition?
Skin tags often appear on people entering middle age, but they can develop at any time if you have a genetic history of their presence. Along with aging factors, other causes of skin tags include pregnancy, obesity and diabetes.
Warts, in contrast, are caused by a virus, namely HPV, or Human Papillomavirus. This virus is spread through skin contact, especially during sexual intercourse. Because the virus is contagious, it is best to treat the warts when they appear to avoid spreading the virus.
Treatment of Skin Tags
Both warts and skin tags can be removed through surgery, but most medical insurance companies will not cover the expenses. Excision under anesthesia is a typical route for wart and tag removal. Anesthesia strategies vary. For severe outbreaks, you may need a general anesthesia, but smaller outbreaks only require local anesthesia.
You may want to opt for a laser surgery, especially if the growth is in a conspicuous area, including the face or neck. Lasers create a smooth surface that makes it hard to believe that a growth was there in the first place. Alternatively, select cryotherapy. Liquid nitrogen quickly eliminates the growth, giving you freedom from painful chafing, especially in the groin area. Discuss your options with your doctor to find the best solution for you.
What Non-Invasive Treatments Are Available?
Once you see skin tags or warts appear, you can treat them at home with a natural formula which will not cause any pain, burning or scarring and is safe for sensitive skin.
With consistent use, you should notice the growths slowly declining in size. You should feel no pain or burning with oil use, making it safe for sensitive skin. For severe growths, doctors can prescribe medications that specifically target tags and warts, but natural removal is often the best solution.
Suggestions for Removing Skin Tags
- The old fashioned way - In our great grandmother's time, they would remove unwanted skin tags by tying a hair or some fine thread around the base of the skin tag. The blood supply would be cut off so that after some time the skin tag would die and drop off. This method can still be used today if you are prepared to have bits of thread hanging from your skin, getting dirty, looking unhygienic and the process taking days to complete. Depending on the location of the skin tag, you may need help tying the string tight enough to be effective. There is also the danger of infection.
- The risky and painful “at home” way – You might try to remove these skin tags yourself by snipping off with a pair of scissors. However, this is considered a very risky and dangerous procedure because of the chance of infection and excessive bleeding. Also you might have mistaken the skin tags for some other skin growth such as moles, keratoses, hemangioma or pyogenic granulomas. Such skin conditions should definitely not be removed by you at home in such a way.
- Cryotherapy – freeze skin tags with liquid nitrogen - a common treatment for skin tags. When applied to a skin tag, liquid nitrogen will destroy the cell tissue quickly and efficiently. Getting rid of skin tags with cryotherapy may cause some minor pain and scarring, and the liquid nitrogen should not be applied to the same area of skin more than once a week. There is a risk of tissue damage beyond the intended target.
- Electrocautery – is usually done in a health professional’s office or clinic. A local anesthetic is used for pain control and the procedure removes larger skin tags by burning them with a low-voltage electrified probe. The procedure staunches bleeding afterwards and accelerates healing. Medical scissors will be used to cut off the skin tag completely. The wound may either be cauterized or pressure will be applied to stop the bleeding. Adhesive bandages will be applied to the wounds, which will need to be kept clean and covered until they have healed. Healing usually takes 2 to 4 weeks and there is the possibility of scarring.
- Surgical excision - this is achieved by cutting out the skin tag under either a local or general anesthesia in the doctor’s rooms or the operating theatre. This can be painful when the anesthetic wears off plus there can be scarring.
- Lasers – which are used to eliminate skin tags while simultaneously re-surfacing the skin thereby producing good cosmetic results.
- Electro surgery or electrolysis- this is an effective way to get rid of skin tags. This procedure is usually performed by a professional who will use an electric needle to destroy the skin tag growth as well as any additional growth beneath the skin. Electrolysis is usually fast and permanent with minor scarring.
Other guides on health conditions:
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Skin Tags. https://www.aocd.org/page/SkinTags
Maluki, A. H., & Abdullah, A. A. (2016, February). Metabolic associations with skin tags. International Journal of Dermatology and Clinical Research, 2(1), 003-011 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/296666477_Metabolic_Associations_with_Skin_Tags
Manchanda, Yashpal. "Removal of skin tags with Erbium:YAG Laser: A simple, safe, quick, and effective technique requiring no local anesthesia." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 79.3: Suppl 1 Sept. 2018: AB244.