Skin Tags: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
Skin tags are those unsightly skin bumps that hang from the skin. They’re not dangerous but most people want their skin tags removed for cosmetic reasons. In this article, we’ll explain what skin tags are, what causes them, and their symptoms. We’ll also go over the different skin tag removal methods out there.
What Are Skin Tags?
Skin tags, whose scientific name is acrochordon, are small flaps of skin tissue that hang off the skin by a small piece of connective tissue. This connective tissue is called a stalk. Skin tags are not dangerous although they can become irritated and cause discomfort.
Skin tags most commonly form around the chest, neck, armpits, back and under the breasts. Sometimes they even appear around the groin. Basically, you’re more likely to develop one or more skin tags anywhere your skin tissue experiences a lot of rubbing or friction, either against itself or against clothing.
Those most likely to develop skin tags are women who experience weight gain or the elderly. However, anyone can develop skin tags. In fact, most people will eventually experience skin tags at some point in their life. Some will have to deal with multiple skin tags while others will only ever develop one. The point is, everyone will probably deal with them at some point in their life.
Skin tags first form looking like small, flattened, pinhead-sized bumps. They usually grow until they’re somewhere between 2mm and 5mm with certain rare exceptions growing larger. Sometimes skin tags will fall off spontaneously but most do not. Skin tags are also known by other names such as fibroepithelial polyp, cutaneous papilloma, and soft fibroma. If you go to your doctor to look at a developing skin tag and they call it by one of these names, you still both talking about the same thing.
Causes Of Skin Tags
Doctors, dermatologists, and lab researchers alike are all unsure why patients develop skin tags. There are a couple of theories though.
One of the most common theories is that skin tags develop due to friction. This makes sense when you consider where skin tags develop. They usually develop in areas that receive constant friction from other parts of the body or from clothing.
This theory also explains why obese individuals are more likely to develop skin tags. And although skin tags can appear on children, they’re more likely to develop as the patient ages and their skin loses elasticity.
Certain studies have shown that some people have an inherent susceptibility to skin tags. For example, people with Crohn’s disease appear to develop skin tags more often around their anal cavity. Studies have also shown that pregnant women often develop skin tags as well during the second trimester.
All of these correlated examples seem to support that there is a connection between bodily friction and the development of skin tags. In each instance, those who are most likely to develop skin tags also experience additional rubbing and friction throughout the day either due to increased weight gain, an expanding body, or loosening skin.
It is worth noting however that skin tags haven’t been proven to be caused by friction yet so the theory still stands as just a theory.
Symptoms Of Skin Tags
Skin tags are easy to spot.
They’re tiny skin growths that cause no real pain unless physically irritated. They are normally skin-colored or light brown and will narrow down somewhat near the base or stalk. The skin tag can be either smooth or wrinkled. They also vary in size as we previously mentioned. Skin tags are usually somewhere between 2mm and 4mm in size but can grow to the size of a grape in some cases. If the skin tag is especially small, it will look like a tiny bump on the skin.
Skin tags develop a blood supply and therefore can become red and inflamed when overly irritated. When the skin tag becomes irritated it can start hurting and causing some discomfort. Usually, doctors do not recommend treating skin tags unless the tag gets irritated continually due its location on the body or if the patient insists it is removed for cosmetic reasons.
Before you treat a skin tag, your doctor will likely want to take a look to make sure it isn’t some other condition. Skin tags have an obvious look to them and are not hard to diagnose. Your doctor or dermatologist will simply examine your skin tag and make a judgment from there. There’s no need for lab tests or some other study to determine that you have a skin tag.
Once officially diagnosed, your doctor will go over your skin tag removal options.
Treatments For Skin Tags
There are four options if you’re looking to get rid of a skin tag.
Your skin tag removal options are:
Scalpel - Option number one requires a scalpel or a pair of scissors. With one quick cut at the base of the trunk, a doctor can physically cut the skinhead from your body. This might cause some momentary discomfort but it doesn’t bother most people.
Cryosurgery - Option number two is cryosurgery. This involves freezing the skin tag off much like you would freeze a wart. Again, the cold may cause some minor discomfort but it’ll be very short-lived.
Electrosurgery - You can also quickly burn off a skin tag using electrosurgery. This is option number three.
String - The fourth option probably takes the longest to work. With this fourth option, your doctor or dermatologist will tie a short piece of string around your skin tag, restricting the blood flow until the tag falls off on its own. Your doctor may use a piece of floss or some other kind of string. This method is less immediate than the aforementioned three methods.