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Skin Tags: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What are Skin Tags?|Medical Definition of Skin Tags|Symptoms of Skin Tags|Causes of Skin Tags|Risk Factors of Skin Tags|Diagnosis of Skin Tags|Treatment for Skin Tags|Lifestyle Changes for Skin Tags|Home Remedies for Skin Tags
Skin Tags: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What are Skin Tags?

Skin tags are flesh-coloured growths that protrude out of your skin. These usually hang between areas where your skin rubs together. For example, your neck, armpits, groin region, thighs, eyelids, or the space under your breasts and abdominal region.

Skin tags are connected to the skin by a peduncle, a thin stalk. These usually hang out of the skin and are often harmless in nature. They can sometimes cause irritation when in contact with objects such as clothes, jewellery, etc. They are a common phenomenon amongst men and women, especially after the age of 50.

In this article, we will talk about what are skin tags, the cause behind, how they can be treated, and home remedies that can help.

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Medical Definition of Skin Tags

The medical name for skin tags is acrochordon. They are defined as a soft, skin-coloured growth that is often found hanging in the middle of areas where skin rubs together. They hang from the surface of the skin on a stalk, a thin tissue. They are usually benign in nature, and hence harmless.

It is important to note that acrochordon is not a sign of skin cancer and does not eventually lead to skin cancer either. If you are worried about a particular skin growth, consult your doctor for more information.

Skin tags can be a genetic condition and run in families. If your immediate blood relatives have acrochordon, the chances of you developing it is higher. It can also occur post-pregnancy or due to excessive weight gain.

Acrochordon develops in places such as the armpits, neck, thighs, groin, or the area beneath your breasts. It can get irritated if it comes in contact with clothes, jewellery, etc.

These flesh-coloured growths are also painless and do not grow further or change in appearance. There are various ways to remove a skin tag medically. It is vital to understand that a skin tag must be removed under the supervision of a doctor to avoid any infection.

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Symptoms of Skin Tags

A skin tag’s first symptom is the appearance of a tiny, soft, skin-coloured bump. This can eventually grow as much as one to two millimetres and not more than that. If you simply touch it or press it, a skin tag won’t hurt.

However, if you fiddle with a skin tag excessively, then it can be irritated and cause minor discomfort. If you try to twist a skin tag, blood can accumulate in the growth and it may be painful to remove it as well.

Skin tags are attached to the surface of the skin by a thin tissue known as stalk. These are often tiny in appearance and can’t be seen unless focussed on.

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Causes of Skin Tags

There is yet no clarity as to why skin tags appear or the cause behind this growth. Studies have shown that certain factors may play a role in the development of a skin tag. They are:

  • As acrochordon usually arises in skin folds or areas where skin rubs together, friction is a possible cause for its development.
  • Many women get acrochordon post-pregnancy. The potential reason for this could be the many hormonal changes that your body experiences as well as the weight gain to support the foetus.
  • Acrochordon can also be genetic. Multiple family members can have these tags as a predisposed condition.
  • Studies also suggest that acrochordon can be a by-product of insulin resistance, high BMI, and rise in triglycerides. This can be because patients with insulin resistance are also resistant to glucose from the bloodstream.
  • HPV or human papillomavirus, a viral infection that is spread through skin to skin contact, is also found to be a reason behind acrochordon.

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Risk Factors of Skin Tags

Risk factors that make you more vulnerable to getting skin tags than others include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • If you have type 2 diabetes or are insulin-resistant
  • Have got human papillomavirus or HPV
  • Have one or more family members with the same condition

If you develop skin growths that you are unsure about, it is important to show it to your doctor to get a better diagnosis. Do not try to shave off or cut possible skin tags as it can only make it worse.

Diagnosis of Skin Tags

Your doctor can recognise or diagnose a skin tag simply by looking at it. The properties to identify acrochordon are:

  • Colour
  • Texture
  • Whether the skin growth is tough or soft

A physical examination is enough to diagnose acrochordon. In addition, your doctor may ask certain questions such as your medical history, genetic predisposition, or check your weight to understand the underlying cause for developing these skin growths.

If for any reason, your doctor isn’t sure about the skin growth being a skin tag, then they can order a biopsy to get it tested for further probing.

Treatment for Skin Tags

There are various ways to treat skin tags. Though, it is essential to understand that acrochordon should not be twisted or tried to be removed with a blade, scissors, or thread. This can lead to excessive bleeding or blood clots that will only increase pain for you.

The different ways to treat a skin tag are:

  • Surgically removing the skin tag by giving you local anaesthesia to numb the area.
  • Using cryotherapy to freeze the growth with liquid nitrogen.
  • Applying high heat pressure or simply burning off the skin tag with electrical energy. This process is known as electrosurgery.
  • Eliminating the skin tag with the use of a surgical thread that cuts its blood flow. This process is known as ligation.

A surgical removal under supervision is the best way forward to remove skin tags. Consult your doctor about what method would suit you.

Since skin tags are benign and painless in nature, do not use methods off the internet to remove them. There are many home remedies that are not advocated by dermatologists. Hence, caution should be exercised.

Lifestyle Changes for Skin Tags

Few lifestyle changes may make you less prone to getting skin tags. However, since causes are still unknown, these do not guarantee that you will never get them.

These are:

  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Going for regular checkups
  • Keeping your diabetes in control

Home Remedies for Skin Tags

There are many home remedies that promise permanent removal of skin tags, however, there is no scientific evidence behind them. Some of these can help you lessen the appearance of skin tags:

  • Using tea tree oil on the area
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Vitamin E
  • Using garlic juice
  • Applying aloe vera

Do not use these home remedies without consulting your dermatologist as they can cause severe irritation in some people.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Skin tag: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/imagepages/9902.htm/ Accessed 02/07/2020

Skin Tags and Cysts: When They’re Harmless and When They’re Not: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/skin-tags-and-cysts-when-you-should-worry// Accessed 02/07/2020

Skin Tags (Acrochordon): https://www.drugs.com/health-guide/skin-tags-acrochordon.html/ Accessed 02/07/2020

Skin Tags: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options: https://www.everydayhealth.com/skin-and-beauty/skin-tag-causes-and-treatments.aspx/ Accessed 02/07/2020

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Written by Nikita Updated 03/09/2021
Expertly reviewed by Dr. Ruby Ezekiel