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Definition

What are skin tags?

Skin tags (acrochordons) are small flesh-colored or brown growths that hang off the skin and look a bit like warts. They’re very common and harmless. Skin tags can vary in size from a few millimeters up to 5cm wide.

How common are skin tags?

Skin tags are extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of skin tags?

Skin tags are acquired benign skin growths that look like a small, soft balloons of hanging skin. Skin tags are harmless growths that can vary in number from one to hundreds. Although some skin tags may fall off spontaneously, most persist once formed.

Skin tags are bits of flesh-colored or darkly pigmented tissue that project from the surrounding skin from a small, narrow stalk (pedunculated). Some people call these growths “skin tabs.”

Early on, skin tags may be as small as a flattened pinhead-sized bump. While most tags typically are small (2 mm-5 mm in diameter) at approximately one-third to one-half the size of a pencil eraser, some skin tags may become as large as a big grape (1 cm in diameter) or a fig (5 cm in diameter)

Skin tags can occur almost anywhere on the body covered by skin. However, the two most common areas for skin tags are the neck and armpits. They also can be found on the chest, back, under the breasts, or in the groin area. They can also grow on the eyelids or under the folds of the buttocks.

Except for the cosmetic appearance, skin tags generally cause no physical pain or discomfort. These tiny skin growths generally cause symptoms when they are repeatedly irritated (for example, by the collar or in the groin). Cosmetic removal for unsightly appearance is perhaps the most common reason they are removed. Occasionally, a tag may require removal because it has become irritated and red from bleeding (hemorrhage) or black from twisting and death of the skin tissue (necrosis). Sometimes, they may become snagged by clothing, jewelry, pets, or seat-belts, causing pain or discomfort. Overall, these are very benign growths that have no cancer (malignant) potential.

Occasionally, a tag may spontaneously fall off without any pain or discomfort. This may occur after the tag has twisted on itself at the stalk base, interrupting the blood flow to the tag.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

Skin tags are harmless and don’t usually cause pain or discomfort. However, you may want to consider getting them removed if they are unsightly and affect your self-esteem, or if they snag on clothing or jewelry and bleed.

Causes

What causes skin tags?

Skin tags are very common and generally occur after midlife. They are said to be caused by bunches of collagen and blood vessels which are trapped inside thicker bits of skin.

They are believed to be the result of skin rubbing against skin. That is why they are generally found in skin creases and folds.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for skin tags?

There are many risk factors for skin tags, such as:

  • Middle-aged people, increase in prevalence up to age 60;
  • People with diabetes;
  • Pregnant women may be more likely to develop skin tags, caused by changes in their hormone levels;
  • Overweight people;
  • Younger children who have excess folds of skin and skin chafing;
  • Children and toddlers, particularly in the underarm and neck areas.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How are skin tags diagnosed?

Certain structures resemble skin tags but are not. Accessory tragus and an accessory digit occasionally can be confused with skin tags. Pathological examination with a biopsy of the tissue will help distinguish skin tags if there is any question as to the diagnosis.

How are skin tags treated?

It is important to keep in mind that skin tags usually do not have to be treated. Deciding to have no treatment is always a reasonable option if the growths are not bothersome. If the tags are bothersome, multiple home and medical options are available:

  • Tie off tag at the narrow base with a piece of dental floss or string.
  • Freeze tag with liquid nitrogen.
  • Burn tag using electric cautery or Hyfrecator.
  • Remove tag with scissors, with or without anesthetic.
  • There are several effective medical ways to remove a skin tag, including removing with scissors, freezing (using liquid nitrogen), and burning (using medical electric cautery at the physician’s office).

Usually, small tags may be removed easily without anesthesia while larger growths may require some local anesthesia (injected lidocaine) prior to removal. Application of a topical anesthesia cream (Betacaine cream or LMX 5% cream) prior to the procedure may be desirable in areas where there are a large number of tags.

Dermatologists (skin specialist doctors), family physicians, and internal medicine physicians are the doctors who treat tags most often. Occasionally, an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) is needed to remove tags very close to the eyelid margin.

Don’t attempt to remove large skin tags yourself because they will bleed heavily.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage skin tags?

There are also home remedies and self-treatments, including tying off the small tag stalk with a piece of thread or dental floss and allowing the tag to fall off over several days.

  • The advantage of scissor removal is that the growth is immediately removed and there are instant results. The potential disadvantage of any kind of scissor or minor surgical procedure to remove tags is minor bleeding.
  • Possible risks with freezing or burning include temporary skin discoloration, need for repeat treatments and failure for the tag to fall off.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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