Skin tags are harmless growths on the skin that can vary in number. They
are usually the same color as your skin or slightly darker. These tiny pieces
of tissue are composed of blood vessels and a type of protein fiber called collagen.
They project from the surrounding skin on a thin or thick stalk. While most
skin tags are small, pinhead-sized bumps, they may become as large as a grape.
Skin tags can develop on any part of the body, but they most commonly
grow on areas of high friction or areas that are commonly rubbed, such as:
Males and females are equally prone to getting skin tags. However, people
may be more likely to develop skin tags if they are obese, are pregnant, or
Why Skin Tags Grow
Researchers don’t know exactly what causes skin tags to grow. It is
believed that friction may lead to the development of skin tags. The growths
commonly occur in areas where skin constantly rubs against clothing or other
skin, such as near your bra strap or in a fold of skin.
Other factors that may contribute to the formation of skin tags include:
- the presence of certain forms of the human
papilloma virus (HPV)
- changes in hormones during pregnancy
- insulin resistance, which is often seen in
people with diabetes
Skin tags also appear to run in families, and researchers suspect that
genetics might play a role in the development of the condition.
How to Tell the Difference Between a Skin Tag and
Other Skin Growths
Your doctor or dermatologist can confirm the presence of skin tags or
other skin growths. If the growths are very close to your eye, you could also consult
an ophthalmologist, or eye doctor. They can usually diagnose your condition
simply by looking at your skin.
Sometimes, what looks like a skin tag is actually a mole, wart, or other
type of harmless growth. Sometimes,
depending on the appearance of the skin tag, your doctor might want to perform
a biopsy to make sure the growth isn’t malignant, or cancerous. During a
biopsy, your doctor will remove the skin tag or abnormal growth and send it to a
laboratory for analysis. Your doctor will follow up with you to discuss the
Getting Rid of Skin Tags
Skin tags usually don’t require treatment and don’t cause any discomfort,
unless their location causes them to rub against your clothes or skin folds
frequently. In these cases, the growths could become pink and irritated In
addition, very rarely a skin tag can rotate at the base and cut off its own
blood supply, causing it to appear discolored, usually black or red. In these
cases, you could ask your doctor about removing them.
Your doctor will probably use one of the following techniques to remove
your skin tags:
- cutting them off with scissors or another sharp
- freezing them with liquid nitrogen
- burning them using an electric current
Skin tag removal usually doesn’t require the use of an anesthetic.
However, your doctor might apply an anesthetic cream or lidocaine
injections to ease the pain if your skin tags are large, or if you are getting multiple
skin tags removed at once.
If your doctor burns or freezes your skin tags, it might take a few days
for them to fall off. Even after skin tag removal, the growths may come back
and new ones might develop in other places.
People with multiple skin tags might want them removed for cosmetic
reasons. However, new skin tags frequently pop up again in those areas.
It’s important to keep in mind that removing skin tags isn’t medically
necessary, and many insurance companies don’t cover the cost of skin tag
removal. Deciding not to have treatment is a reasonable option if the growths
Risks Associated With Skin Tag Removal
Skin tag removal is a low-risk procedure. However, they often bleed
freely when removed, requiring pressure and monitoring during the procedure.
Sometimes coagulation with silver nitrate or electrocautery
is necessary. In rare cases, you may experience heavy bleeding or develop an
infection after the surgery. You can lower your risk for complications by
telling your doctor about any prescription or over-the-counter medications
you’re taking, since some drugs and herbal supplements can make you bleed more
after skin tag removal. It’s also important to follow your doctor’s
instructions on how to care for the area where your skin tags were removed.
This will reduce your risk of getting an infection after the procedure.
You should never try to remove skin tags at home. Without a doctor and a
sterile environment, the risk for excessive bleeding and infection increases.