What is a skin tag?Skin tags are common, acquired benign skin growths that resemble a small, soft balloon suspended on a slender stalk. Skin tags are harmless growths that can vary in number from one to hundreds. Males and females are equally prone to developing skin tags. Obesity seems to be associated with skin tag development. Although some skin tags may fall off spontaneously, most persist once formed. The medical name for skin tag is acrochordon. Some people call them "skin tabs." Early on, skin tags may be as small as a flattened pinhead-sized bump. While most tags typically are small (2 mm-5 mm in diameter) at approximately one-third to one-half the size of a pencil eraser, some skin tags may become as large as a big grape (1 cm in diameter) or a fig (5 cm in diameter).
Is there another medical name for a skin tag?Medical terms your physician or dermatologist may use to describe a skin tag include fibroepithelial polyp, acrochordon, cutaneous papilloma, and soft fibroma. All of these terms describe skin tags and are benign (noncancerous), painless skin growths. Some people refer to these as "skin tabs" or warts. However, a skin tag is best known as a skin tag.
What causes skin tags?The precise cause of skin tags is unknown.
Where do skin tags occur?Skin tags can occur almost anywhere on the body covered by skin. However, the two most common areas for skin tags are the neck and armpits. Other common body areas for the development of skin tags include the eyelids, upper chest (particularly under the female breasts), buttock folds, and groin folds. Tags are typically thought to occur where skin rubs against itself or clothing.
Who tends to get skin tags?More than half if not all of the general population has been reported to have skin tags at some time in their lives. Although tags are generally acquired (not present at birth) and may occur in anyone, more often they arise in adulthood. They are much more common in middle age, and they tend to increase in prevalence up to age 60. Children and toddlers may also develop skin tags, particularly in the underarm and neck areas. Skin tags are more common in overweight people.
Hormone elevations, such as those seen during pregnancy, may cause an increase in the formation of skin tags, as skin tags are more frequent in pregnant women. Tags are essentially harmless and do not have to be treated unless they are bothersome. Skin tags that are bothersome may be easily removed during or after pregnancy, typically by a dermatologist.
Will removing a skin tag cause more to grow?There is no evidence that removing a skin tag will cause more tags to grow. There is no expectation of causing skin tags to "seed" or spread by removing them. In reality, some people are simply more prone to developing skin tags and may have new growths periodically. Some individuals request periodic removal of tags at annual or even quarterly intervals.
Are skin tags contagious?No. There is no evidence to suggest that common skin tags are contagious.
Skin tag vs. wartWhile warts are caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV) and are known to be very contagious, skin tags are not thought to be caused by HPV.
What signs or symptomes do skin tags cause?Except for the cosmetic appearance, skin tags generally cause no physical pain or discomfort. These tiny skin growths generally cause symptoms when they are repeatedly irritated (for example, by the collar or in the groin). Skin tag removal for cosmetic reasons is perhaps the most common reason they are removed. The following symptoms and signs may necessitate skin tag removal:
it has become irritated and red from bleeding (hemorrhage) or black from twisting, and death of the skin tissue (necrosis).
Sometimes, they may become snagged by clothing, jewelry, pets, or seat belts, causing pain or discomfort. Overall, these are very benign growths that have no cancer (malignant) potential.
Occasionally, a tag may spontaneously fall off without any pain or discomfort. This may occur after the tag has twisted on itself at the stalk base, interrupting the blood flow to the tag.
What treatment options and home remidies remove skin tags?It is important to keep in mind that skin tags usually do not have to be treated. Deciding not to get rid of a skin tag is always a reasonable option if the growths are not bothersome. If the tags are bothersome, multiple home and medical treatment methods are available:
• Tie off the tag at its narrow base with a piece of dental floss or string.
• Freeze the tag with liquid nitrogen.
• Burn the tag using electric cautery or electro-desiccation.
• Remove the tag with scissors, with or without anesthetic.
Do any creams remove skin tags?There are no currently medically approved creams for the removal of skin tags. Skin tags are typically removed by physical methods like cutting off or tying off with dental floss. It is not advisable to use unapproved products like Dermasil, wart removers, tea tree oil, nail polish, toothpaste, or hair-removal creams. Trial uses of unapproved creams may cause irritation and possible secondary complications.
Should I worry about cutting my skin tag by shaving?No. Skin tags are frequently and inadvertently shaved off while removing hair from the armpit either with a razor or by waxing. There is typically no harm done when small skin tags are removed by shaving.
Sometimes, even a small skin tag base may bleed for a while and require constant applied pressure for 10-15 minutes to stop bleeding. Skin infection is a rare possible complication of accidentally shaving off skin tags.