Who isn’t bothered by skin tags? You know, those annoying flesh-colored dangling pieces of skin? If you’ve got one or more, you know it. In fact, you probably can’t keep your hands off of them. Skin tags are probably the most common bump or growth found on adult skin. You may think they are ugly, and sometimes they are. But the good news is that they are harmless. Here’s what you need to know about skin tags and what you can do about them.
What are skin tags?
Skin tags are simply an outgrowth of normal skin. They are diagnosed based on clinical appearance. They may be as small as a pencil point or may grow to the size of a dime. Typically, they are only a few millimeters in diameter.
A single tag is pedunculated. That means it is attached by a peduncle which is a narrow stalk to which the growth attaches to the skin.
In the dermatologic literature, skin tags are also known as acrochordons, fibroepithelial polyps or cutaneous papillomas. Whatever you call them, they are harmless, benign skin tumors that typically do not hurt, itch, or cause pain.
Almost 50% of the adult population has them. And, the chance of developing them increases with age.
A person may have a single skin tag or may develop
hundreds of these fleshy growths.
What causes them?
Skin tags are commonly seen in individuals with obesity and diabetes. There are some observational studies that suggest that they may be a sign of insulin resistance. But the exact cause is uncertain.
Environmental factors may play a role, as they do seem to occur in areas where skin rubs against skin, such as areas of friction like in the armpits, around the base of the neck, underneath the breasts, and along the inguinal crease where the upper thigh meets the body. But not always. Skin tags may also be found on the eyelids.
Hormones may also play a role in their development as these growths seem to increase in pregnant women. And as with many medical conditions, there may be a genetic predisposition as skin tags often run in families.
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Only older folks get skin tags
Although they are more common in older individuals, anyone, including children can develop these benign growths.
They are contagious
They are not contagious.
Removing skin tags causes new ones to grow
No, removing them does not cause new tags to grow, although new ones may develop with age.
Skin tags are the beginning of cancer
They are, in fact, universally benign. Reports of skin cancer arising within them extremely rare.
Skin tags indicate that you have cancer
They are not a sign that you have cancer or any other medical condition for that matter. Although there is an exceedingly rare medical syndrome, called Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, that is associated with skin tag occurrence. However, merely having them is not an indication of an underlying malignancy or other health problem.
Only people who are overweight get them
This is not true. Although overweight individuals may be more likely to develop skin tags, these fibromas do not discriminate. Even the most underweight individual can develop them.
Should skin tags be removed?
Most dermatologists recommend the removal of tags only if they are the source of irritation or discomfort. Although they often become inflamed in areas where skin rubs against skin, they can also become irritated from clothing or by getting caught in jewelry.
Skin tags can also be removed if an individual finds their appearance unfavorable. It is important to note, however, that many private insurers no longer cover removal of these benign growths solely for cosmetic purposes. From a strictly medical perspective, there is no reason to remove an otherwise asymptomatic skin tag.
How are they removed?
Skin tags can be easily removed in a dermatologist’s office with a small Gradle scissor. These scissors have a slight curve fine tips. They are used for delicate work.
Small tags can be removed without anesthesia. However, larger lesions often necessitate numbing the area by injecting a small amount of local anesthetic.
Other removal techniques include freezing the tag, similar to wart removal, or removing the tag with a cautery.
Can I remove them at home by myself?
Many people attempt to remove skin tags at home. This is not advisable due to the risk of infection, bleeding, and unnecessary pain. It is best to have them removed by a professional.
Further, you could mistake a more serious condition, such as a malignant mole, for a benign skin tag. Skin lesions should be examined by a skincare expert before attempting do-it-yourself removal.
That being said, there are a variety of ways people have tried removing skin tags on their own, including the following:
- Over-the-counter wart remover
These agents can discolor the skin and cause skin irritation and infection.
- Nail clippers
People have attempted to cut off their skin tags using nail clippers. This can results in bleeding, infection, and scarring.
- At home shaving techniques
Although you may be tempted to do this, it can result in uncontrolled bleeding. It is also unnecessarily painful
- Strangulation techniques
Some people try to remove the tag by cutting off its blood supply using dental floss or another type of string. This causes discomfort and, in some cases, prolonged pain.
The bottom line
Don’t assume a new growth is a benign skin tag. Allow a skin expert to evaluate any change in your skin before attempting to treat it yourself. And while you are there, let the expert remove it for you.