What are anal skin tags?
Anal skin tags are a common and benign skin issue. They may feel like small bumps or raised areas on the anus. It’s not uncommon to have multiple skin tags at once.
Although skin tags may be sensitive, they rarely cause pain. However, skin tags can be very uncomfortable and itch.
Keep reading to learn more about why anal skin tags form, how they’re diagnosed, and what to expect from treatment.
What causes anal skin tags?
The skin around the anus is often looser than 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 becomes enlarged, it can result in a skin tag. This is because the extra skin remains even after the swelling has gone down.
Bulging or swollen blood vessels are often caused by:
- straining from constipation
- heavy lifting
- strenuous exercise
- blood clots
If you’ve had hemorrhoids or other blood vessel conditions around the anus, 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 one overview article on the condition, up to 37 percent of people with Crohn’s develop anal skin tags.
How are anal skin tags diagnosed?
Although anal skin tags are benign, they can still be a concern. That’s why it’s a good idea to ask your doctor to confirm 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. Anal skin tag removal may sometimes be recommended, but other times it may be appropriate to leave it. This will depend on the form and cause of the skin tag. Some tags heal poorly.
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. A hospital visit is rarely needed.
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 the excess skin is removed, 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 a scalpel to cut away the excess skin, followed by dissolvable sutures or stitches to close the incision.
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 on its own. 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.
What to expect from aftercare
The turnaround time after anal skin tag removal is fast. After the procedure, you’ll need to remain at home and relax. You shouldn’t lift any heavy objects or 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 decrease pain or sensitivity in the days following the removal.
What to expect during recovery
Recovery from an anal skin tag removal procedure is often easy, but it’s important you 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 you take a laxative or try a liquid diet. This will make using the restroom easier and reduce the possibility of constipation.
Pressure on the anus may cause pain near the removal site. If you’re experiencing pain or other discomfort, using a topical painkiller may help ease your symptoms.
How to prevent anal skin tags
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 preventative 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 you’ve had another one develop, talk with your doctor to confirm the suspicious spot.