Anal skin tags are a common and benign skin issue. They may feel like small bumps or raised areas on the anus. It’s common to have multiple skin tags at once.
Read to learn how anal skin tags form, how they’re diagnosed, and what to expect from treatment.
An anal skin tag appears as a piece of excess tissue around your anus or in the surrounding area.
It shouldn’t lead to pain or bleeding, but an anal skin tag can become bothersome, itchy, and uncomfortable due to the presence of extra skin tissue.
These skin tags usually start small but might grow over time. The reasons for growth include repeated trauma from cleaning or recovering from clotted hemorrhoids or anal fissures.
Anal skin tags vs. hemorrhoids: How to tell the difference
The veins that hemorrhoids affect are a natural part of the human anatomy. However, when these become enlarged, they risk prolapsing, which means that they protrude from the anus.
Due to their location, it’s easy to confuse them with anal skin tags. There are key differences between the two that help people tell them apart:
- Pain level. Anal skin tags are generally painless. On the other hand, hemorrhoids can be extremely painful (although they aren’t always).
- Bleeding. Hemorrhoids bleed after even light contact, but anal skin tags won’t usually bleed.
- Color. Hemorrhoids tend to be red or purple. Skin tags tend to be the same color as your skin.
Anal skin tags vs. warts: How to tell the difference
Warts can also occur on the anus, often due to infection by human papillomavirus (HPV). Here’s how to differentiate them from anal skin tags:
- Size. Anal skin tags reach a size of few centimeters at their largest. Warts can grow larger than this over time and cover the entire area around the anus. They can also spread to the genitals.
- Burning. Anal skin tags might cause discomfort and itching due to the extra skin tissue. But anal warts often causing a burning itch and might bleed after skin contact.
- Surface. Larger warts have a rough surface, similar to cauliflower. Skin tags have a similar surface to your skin, although they may be slightly wrinkled.
If you’re still unsure as to whether bumps on your anus are the result of skin tags or another condition, it’s best to consult with your doctor.
The skin around the anus is often looser than the skin on other parts of the body. That’s because the skin in this area needs to expand during bowel movements so stool can pass.
If a blood vessel near the anus swells or enlarges, it can result in a hemorrhoid. The excess skin that a hemorrhoid produces becomes a skin tag. The extra skin might remain even after the swelling has gone down.
Bulging or swollen blood vessels can occur due to:
- straining due to constipation
- heavy lifting
- intense exercise
- blood clots in or around the anus
- excessive irritation or friction in the area
If you’ve had hemorrhoids or other blood vessel conditions in your anal area, you may be more likely to develop anal skin tags.
If you have Crohn’s disease or another inflammatory condition, skin tags can form due to inflammation. In a 2020 study of 103 hospital patients with Crohn’s disease, about
Although anal skin tags are benign, they can still be a cause for concern. That’s why it’s a good idea to ask your doctor to confirm that the bump or bulge you feel is the result of a skin tag and not something else, such as a tumor or blood clot.
To make a diagnosis, your doctor will likely conduct a physical exam. During this exam, you may be asked to remove your underwear and lie on your side. Your doctor may perform a visual exam and look at the anus for signs of a skin tag.
They may also perform a rectal exam and insert a finger into the rectum to feel for masses or bulges.
If your doctor needs additional information to make a diagnosis, they may also use one of two procedures to look inside the anal opening and the rectum. Both an anoscopy and a sigmoidoscopy can help rule out any underlying rectal conditions or concerns, such as cancer.
Your doctor may also take a tissue sample, or biopsy, and send it to a lab for testing.
Once a diagnosis is made, your doctor can begin discussing your treatment options. Some doctors recommend anal skin tag removal, but it may be appropriate to leave the tag unoperated. This will depend on the form and cause of the skin tag. Some tags don’t heal rapidly.
Treating skin tags involves removing the extra tissue.
What to expect during removal
Anal skin tag removal is usually an in-office procedure. Skin tags are on the exterior of the anus, which means your doctor can access and remove them easily. It’s rare that you’d need to visit a hospital.
For the procedure, your doctor will inject a numbing medication around the skin tag to reduce any pain. You may also be given a sedative to help you relax. Before removing the excess skin, your doctor will clean the area with antibacterial soap.
The process of removing the skin tag is very fast and simple. Your doctor will use scissors to cut away the excess skin.
Some doctors prefer to use a laser or liquid nitrogen instead of surgical excision. Cryotherapy, which uses liquid nitrogen, freezes the skin tag. In a few days, the tag will fall off without the need for further handling. A laser burns the tag away, and any remaining skin falls off.
To prevent complications, your doctor may remove only one anal skin tag at a time. This gives the area time to heal and reduces the risk of infection from stool or bacteria.
The turnaround time after anal skin tag removal is fast. After the procedure, you’ll need to stay at home and relax. You shouldn’t lift any heavy objects or do exercise.
You should be able to return to work the next day and resume normal activities within a week.
Your doctor will likely prescribe a course of antibiotics to reduce your risk of infection. They may also prescribe an antifungal cream and a topical pain medication to apply to the anus. These creams can help promote healing and reduce pain or sensitivity in the days following the removal.
Recovery from an anal skin tag removal procedure is often easy, but it’s important to follow your doctor’s aftercare advice. An infection can delay healing, and you may need further treatment to stop the bacteria from spreading.
In the first days after the procedure, your doctor may recommend taking a laxative or trying a liquid diet. This will make using the restroom easier and reduce your risk of constipation.
Pressure on the anus may cause pain near the removal site. If you’re experiencing pain or another discomfort, using a topical pain relief cream may help ease your symptoms.
After you have an anal skin tag removed, talk with your doctor about strategies for preventing future skin tags. Being aware of conditions that can cause anal skin tags can help you avoid them.
Try these at-home measures to avoid more anal skin tags:
- Take a laxative or fiber supplement to make stools softer and easier to pass.
- Apply a lubricant or petroleum jelly to the rectum before a bowel movement to help stool pass more easily.
- Clean and sanitize the anus after each bowel movement to help prevent friction and irritation that might lead to skin tags.
These measures may not always be enough to prevent an anal skin tag. If you suspect you have one or see another one develop, talk with your doctor to confirm the suspicious spot.
Anal skin tags are common, harmless bumps on the anus that may feel itchy or uncomfortable.
Possible causes include hemorrhoids, diarrhea, and irritation. A doctor can remove the skin tags with a quick in-office procedure. Laxatives and a liquid diet can help during recovery, and lubricants can prevent more tags from forming.