Skin tags are small, benign growths that are made of a core of fibers and ducts, nerve cells, fat cells and epidermis. You may have heard skin tags referred to as acrohordon, cutaneous papilloma, cutaneous tag, fibroepithelial polyp, molluscum, fibroma pendulum, papilloma colli, soft fibroma or Templeton skin tag. Regardless of what the tags are referred to in conversation, the basic principle remains--it is a raised stalk on the skin called a peduncle.
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Dermatologists are doctors who specialize in skin care. These physicians receive additional training in skin problems as well as techniques for keeping the skin healthy. The training that dermatologists go through is extensive and because of that, these physicians keep skin, hair and nails healthy.
What Are Skin Tags?
Skin tags can occur in both men and women and tend to increase with age. Pregnant woman often seek medical advice for skin tags, as the growths seem to be a common pregnancy woe. And obese individuals who suffer from type 2 diabetes also tend to experience more skin tags than others. Almost half of the human race will experience skin tags at some point in their lifetime. Skin tags are commonly found on the neck, chest, back, armpits, under the breasts and in the groin area. Most skin tags are painless; however, they do become irritated quite easily from clothing or jewelry that rubs on them.
Dermatologist agree that although skin tags are common and in general they are not dangerous, they can become damaged and inflamed if they are not handled by a professional. Cutting them, rubbing them or shaving them off is not advised--most skin tags will bleed under those circumstance.
What Causes Skin Tags?
The cause of skin tags is a bit elusive. Doctors have varying opinions on what causes skin tags, and some even believe that there is a multitude of causes for skin tags. The most commonly agreed upon reason for skin tags is chaffing or irritation from the skin rubbing together. That’s why skin tags are prevalent in the groin and armpits.
Hormones secreted during pregnancy seem to be another common cause of skin tags. Individuals who are insulin-resistant due to diabetes or who use illegal steroids often develop skin tags. And naturally, skin tags are more common in overweight or obese people because the friction of the skin rubbing seems to be a prominent cause. Skin tags around the anal opening are common in individuals with Crohn’s disease. Skin tags are generally not cancerous.
Symptoms of Skin Tags
Skin tags are usually flesh-colored and sometimes may appear darker in light-skinned individuals. Skin tags range from smooth to quite wrinkled. Skin tags can be as small as 1 mm and as large as a grape. The stalk of a skin tag is usually easy to recognize, but if the skin tag is small enough, it could be mistaken for just a raised bump on the skin.
Although skin tags are generally flesh-toned, if twisted near the blood supply, they may turn red or black. And skin tags can and will bleed if caught on clothing or happen to be torn. Generally speaking, skin tags are not painful and not associated with any other skin conditions.
Treating Skin Tags
Since skin tags are harmless, often individuals elect to do nothing at all to get rid of them. However, if the skin tags are in a place where friction continues to keep them inflamed, or if they are cosmetically unappealing, then having a dermatologist remove the skin tags is an option.
Skin tags can be removed by a dermatologist with a scalpel or scissors. Most dermatologists use a small bit of a numbing agent to numb the area near the skin tag and then simply clip the skin tag away. A small band-aid is applied, and in most cases the end result is smooth skin. If you attempt to remove skin tags at home, be warned--it is painful and you may want to use something like an ice cube to numb the area prior to trying to cut or tweeze it off.
Skin tags can also be removed by freezing them with liquid nitrogen, known as cryotherapy. Liquid nitrogen is applied to the skin tag and destroys the tissue quickly and efficiently. Using cryotherapy to get rid of skin tags can be only mildly painful, but can leave a bit of scarring. Other ways of removing skin tags are electrosurgery or electrolysis, which is the process a physician uses to destroy the skin tag as well as the growth beneath the skin.
A more natural method of removing skin tags involves various specially formulated oils made from the extract of plants. Many of these products are marketed with names like Heal Skin Tags, Skin Tag DX and Dermatend. Regardless of the size or location of the skin tag, caution is advised in removing them, and having the tags analyzed by a doctor is recommended as a safety precaution.
When to Seek Medical Attention
As previously mentioned, removing skin tags can be painful and usually involves quite a bit of bleeding since the stalk does contain a blood supply. However, if you are certain that the skin tags are harmless and don’t mind the pain involved, the products mentioned above can help. However, if you have a pre-disposition for cancers, especially those affecting the skin, it is highly recommended that the skin tag be excised and then sent to a pathologist for a microscopic diagnosis to rule out other skin conditions. Other conditions that produce similar lesions are moles and warts. All of these are often benign, and it is very rare for a skin cancer to resemble a skin tag; still, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Follow-Up, Prevention and Outlook
Skin tags are generally fine if left alone. However, once a skin tag is removed, a small Band-aid is placed over the area simply to prevent dirt and germs from entering the open sore. Skin tags usually do not grow back in the same place, but others may grow in the area where others have been removed. Prevention of skin tags is impossible. Removing skin tags is considered curative, but individuals who tend to develop skin tags will usually develop more over time