Skin Tag: Everything to Know About Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
What is a skin tag?
A skin tag is a cutaneous growth or a small growth of the skin that may appear in different parts of the human body, usually in places where the skin has creases or folds, such as the neck and underarms.
It is characterized by a peduncle, which is a thin stalk that connects it to the rest of the skin.
Skin tags are also known by different names such as acrochordon, cutaneous papilloma, fibroepithelial polyp, etc.
Where to find skin tags?
Skin tags can appear all over the body but are commonly found in parts with skin folds or creases. Here are the most common locations of skin tags:
Because the neck facilitates head movements, the skin around it has many folds or creases.
While not necessarily the most common location skin tags, skin tags located in the neck are the most noticeable.
This is because they are normally not covered by clothing and are located near the face where people always look.
Skin tags may be found in the upper chest close to the neck. They may also occur under the breast especially in women where skins of the breast and lower chest overlap.
In both genders, the groin has many folds and creases. Because of this, skin tags may appear in this area.
This may be a cause for concern as growths in the skin of this part of the body is generally can be signs of more serious diseases.
Fortunately, a skin tag is not associated with any venereal or sexually transmitted disease.
Just like the neck, the armpit is located in a part of the body that facilitates a lot of movement. Because of this, the skin in the armpit, when at rest, have many folds or creases where skin tags may form.
Skin tags in the armpits may go unnoticed because of their location and are commonly covered by clothing.
While not as common as other parts of the body, skin tags can also appear in the eyelids.
Because of its prominent location in the face, skin tags in the eyelids and other areas in the face are unsightly and are usually targeted for removal through surgical means.
How to identify a skin tag?
A skin tag is commonly discovered by touch or sight when a bump is felt or seen in the skin. It may have the same color as the skin, or it can be slightly darker.
Unlike moles or warts which are bumps on the skin, a skin tag has a peduncle or stalk that makes it look like it’s hanging from the skin.
Are skin tags dangerous?
Skin tags can be considered tumors. Fortunately, they are benign or non-cancerous tumors which means that they are normally harmless.
While skin tags should not be cause for concern, they are also known to cause slight pain and discomfort if damaged.
These lesions may occur when a skin tag constantly rubs against a surface such as clothing.
Skin tags may also be get caught in jewelry or in clasps and buttons found in clothing. This may cause the skin tag to sting, itch or even bleed.
What causes skin tags?
To this day, the exact cause of skin tags is not known. It is fairly common and is estimated to affect more than half or almost 60% of the adult population.
Males and females have equal chances of getting skin tags. However, several factors have been associated with skin tags including:
Skin tags may appear at any point in a person’s life. Although rare, they may appear as early as childhood and adolescence. They may also occur in teenagers and young adults.
However, the probability of having a skin tag increases as the person ages. People in their forties or older have an increased chance of having these benign skin growths.
This scientific study found a correlation between increased BMI and the occurrence of the skin tag.
The study was conducted on 64 people and it was observed that 75% of those with skin tags fell under the overweight and obese category.
While gender is not considered a cause of skin tags, they usually appear during pregnancy. Particularly the second trimester.
According to this clinical study, skin tags are one of the most common changes that happen to the skin of pregnant women. This may be caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy.
Related: 10 Best Pregnancy Foods to Eat for a Healthy Baby
While not directly caused by diabetes, skin tags can be a sign of diabetes.
This study concluded that people with multiple skin tags have a higher risk of having diabetes.
The researchers also recommended patients with a high number of skin tags be suspected to have impaired carbohydrate metabolism.
Another study also found that skin tags are associated with high lipid profiles in patients with type 2 diabetes.
This means that skin tags are an indicator of high cholesterol on people with type 2 diabetes.
How do you treat skin tags?
Even though skin tags have been proven to be harmless or benign, people may still want to have them removed for cosmetic reasons.
There are several ways to do this, all of which require minor procedures that do not require substantial recovery time.
Here are the most popular ways to remove skin tags:
Liquid nitrogen treatment, also known as cryotherapy, or cryosurgery, is a procedure that uses extremely cold temperatures to remove skin tags.
Liquid nitrogen is applied using a spray canister or a cotton swab to kill the skin tag cells. Because of the extreme cold, the patient may feel a mild stinging or burning sensation during the procedure.
In this procedure, heat is applied to the skin tag using a device called cautery.
This burns the skin tag causing it to fall off from the healthy skin. Depending on the location and/or the number of skin tags, the procedure may require anesthesia.
Ligation is one of the common skin tag treatments. This procedure requires a tiny band to be tied around the base of the skin tag.
Because the skin tag is composed of living cells, this will cut off blood circulation, causing the skin tag to die and eventually fall off.
This procedure may take several days to take effect.
A skin tag can be snipped off using a scalpel or surgical scissors. This may cause minimal bleeding which is easily remedied normally without the need for stitches.
Skin tag removal products
There are several products in the market for skin tag removal.
These products are sold in the form of patches, creams, and other topical solutions. However, these products are not strictly regulated by the government and their efficacy may not be reliable.
Some home remedies are used to remove skin tags. This includes tea tree oil, salicylic acid, and apple cider vinegar.
However convenient, health professionals discourage people from using home remedies and procedures in the removal of skin tags as they may cause serious injury and complications.
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Skin tags are as common as they are harmless and treatments are available.
They may even be considered a natural part of aging or pregnancy. Unless injured, they are highly unlikely to cause pain and discomfort.
Skin tags can be removed for aesthetic reasons. Ideally, it should be done by a medical professional.
Home remedies and products for skin tag removal should be used with utmost care and consideration as they can cause bleeding, injury, or other skin issues.