Skin tags are very common and found on most individuals. But have you ever stopped to think about what skin tags are? And what you can do to treat them? Here, we’re covering everything you need to know about skin tags including the answers to your common questions.
What are skin tags?
A skin tag is a small, benign tumor. They’re typically only a few millimeters in diameter and appear as a smooth flap of skin. Skin tags are defined in the medical world as acrochordons, and attach to the skin through a thin, raised stalk referred to as a peduncle. Most commonly, skin tags are found on areas of the body where skin rubs against skin. This includes areas such as the eyelids, armpits, groin, neck, and skin folds.
Since skin tags are benign, meaning non-cancerous, they’re considered to be a risk-free growth that causes little to no harm. Even though skin tags are harmless to your health, they can still be very irritating and frustrating to live with. For example, depending on the location of the skin tag, patients can become frustrated due to the growth rubbing against clothes and other materials. Additionally, since skin tags commonly appear on exposed areas of the body like the neck or face, patients oftentimes feel embarrassed as the growths can potentially affect their self-esteem.
How can you tell if you have a skin tag?
Skin tags are often mistaken for a wide variety of skin conditions such as freckles, moles, or warts. Because of this, it’s important to first establish whether or not you have a skin tag before discussing appropriate treatments.
At Arizona Dermatology, we look for two main indications when diagnosing skin tags:
The most prominent way our doctors diagnose skin tags is by looking at the appearance of the growth. When doing so, we’ll look for a few defining characteristics. For example, a skin tag will have a soft, smooth appearance. It will commonly be attached to the body through a small stalk and look like a piece of hanging skin. The growth is also oftentimes hyperpigmented, meaning that the color differs from the skin’s natural skin tone.
The next indication we look for when diagnosing a skin tag is the location of the growth. This is an obvious indication because of how skin tags are formed. Skin tags are formed through skin on skin irritation. Because of this, the only areas where skin tags can reside include parts of the body that are exposed to repetitive irritation.
So, when evaluating your skin condition, if we find that your growth resides on your neck, groin, or within a skin fold, we can easily conclude that there’s a great possibility the growth it is in fact a skin tag. For a professional diagnosis, we recommend setting up a consultation appointment with your dermatologist.
If you develop a skin growth in which the symptoms of the growth vary from those of a benign skin tag, contact your nearest dermatologist to have your growth properly evaluated.
Risk factors for skin tags
Skin tags are a common skin care condition. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), approximately 46% of individuals have at least one skin tag.
Although harmless, common skin tags have certain risk factors. A risk factor is something that increases the likelihood of developing a condition or disease. For example, sunbathing significantly raises the risk of developing skin cancer. Therefore, sunbathing is considered a risk factor for skin cancer.
In the case of skin tags, risk factors include:
- Age: As patients get older, they increase their risk of developing a skin tag. Studies show that around 59% of individuals ages 70 and up have at least one skin tag.
- Weight: Individuals who are overweight or obese increase their chances of developing a skin tag, as they typically have more skin folds and creases.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women have a higher likelihood of developing a skin tag due to hormonal changes.
- Genetics: Patients with a family history of skin tags are more likely to develop them.
- Sex steroid imbalance: Patients with changes in estrogen or progesterone may increase their risk of developing skin tags.
How are skin tags treated?
Depending on where your skin tag is located, you may not wish to remove it. Typically, if the skin tag is in a location in which it doesn’t irritate the skin or affect a patient’s self-esteem, many will choose to leave the skin growth. This is completely fine, as skin tags are benign and cause no major threat to your health.
However, should you develop a skin tag and wish to have it removed there are several treatment options available, including:
Below we’ll cover each treatment option in greater detail.
Cauterization is a treatment in which a device is used to burn areas of the skin in order to remove unhealthy cells. Typically, this treatment is used for more severe skin growths that need to be removed immediately, such as skin cancer. However, in the case of skin tags, a milder form of cauterization, called electrocauterization, is used.
Electrocauterization burns the skin tag through a small hand held device. The device uses electricity to heat the targeted tissues, ultimately removing the skin tag. Following the treatment, patients can return to their daily routine since no recovery time is needed.
Cryotherapy is another popular treatment for skin tags. Contrary to cauterization where the skin growth was gently burned off, cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the growth. Once frozen, the growth will eventually fall off. This treatment is a quick and relatively painless procedure.
Excision is another effective treatment for removing skin tags. With excision, the skin tag is removed using a scalpel, which is a small, sharp knife. In addition to the other skin tag treatments, excision is also a quick procedure that doesn’t require any time for recovery.
Your next steps
For more information on skin tags or other common skin growths, don’t hesitate to contact us. At Arizona Dermatology, we’re always here to help in any way that we can.