So you’ve found a skin tag. Don’t be alarmed, it can happen to anyone. While they may be unsightly, they are not harmful. However, they can be a pain for those who have them, especially if they are overly conspicuous, they are numerous, or they are in uncomfortable places like the armpits or neck. Skin tags, luckily, are easily fixed either at home or through intervention by a medical professional. This week our blog will take an in-depth look at what skin tags are, how they form, and how to treat them.
What is a skin tag?
A skin tag is a type of polyp present on the surface of the skin which appears in about a quarter of the adult population. Sometimes called an acrochordon, a soft wart, a fibroepithelial polyp, or a number of other names, skin tags are benign and tend to appear in adulthood. They tend to appear a brownish color on light-skinned patients and similar in color or only slightly darker than the regular skin tone of dark-skinned patients. They are typically less than 2 millimeters but in rare occasions can be larger and tend to be wrinkly and asymmetrical but can sometimes be smooth. These small, benign tumors are not dangerous or harmful and do not need to be removed unless the patient finds them unsightly or they are in a place which causes irritation to the patient’s skin.
What causes skin tags?
It is thought that friction on the skin is the primary cause of most skin tags though dermatologists are unclear as to whether or not this is the only factor. Doctors believe this is so due to the areas where skin tags appear and the people who tend to get them. Typically, skin tags show up in creases and folds such as those found in the armpits, eyelids, under the breasts, or neck; they also tend to be more prevalent in people who are overweight, obese, or pregnant. Genetics may also play a part in the appearance of skin tags; if your parents have them, there’s a likelihood you will as well. They are also notably more present in those who have Crohn’s disease or diabetes.
How to get rid of skin tags
There are numerous ways to get rid of skin tags; some are over the counter and some require a doctor’s intervention. There are four procedures that people commonly use to get rid of skin tags. The first is excision. This is where a doctor actually cuts out the affected area or areas with a scalpel. Cryotherapy, or freezing off the skin tag, can be done in a doctor’s office or by using over the counter medication used for warts. They can also be cauterized, or burned off, either by a doctor or at home with a cautery pen. The last treatment for skin tags is probably the easiest for an at home procedure. Ligation, or cutting of the blood supply, will cause the skin tag to fall off in a few days or weeks. Using a piece of thread or dental floss, tie a knot around the skin tag tightly, but not so tight that it is consistently painful. Leave the knot tied until the skin tag falls off. There are also plenty of over the counter medications available for skin tag removal.