What causes them to occur?
One day you’re getting ready to go hang out with your friends and notice a small, raised bump in your armpit as you put on your deodorant. You touch it and it moves around slightly but doesn’t hurt. What is it and why did it appear? Should you be worried? Can it be removed?
A skin tag is a harmless, small piece of soft skin that can look smooth or irregular. It’s often raised from the skin by a stalk (peduncle) and contains fibers, ducts, nerve cells and fat cells. It starts as a small, flat pinhead bump. Some stay this way, but others grow. They range in size from 2 millimeters (mm) to 1 centimeter (cm) with some getting up to 5cm. The exact cause isn’t known but thought to be related to groups of collagen and blood vessels becoming stuck inside thicker pieces of skin. Skin tags can appear anywhere on your body, like your eyelids, armpits, under the breasts, groin, upper chest and neck. They’re most likely to be found in areas where your skin rubs against clothing or other skin, such as in folds or creases. Typically, they go unnoticed. However, sometimes, if they’re in a spot that gets repeatedly rubbed or scratched, they can bleed or get irritated. They have many different names, such as acrochordon, cutaneous papilloma, cutaneous tag, fibroepithelial polyp, fibroma molluscum, fibroma pendulum, soft fibroma and Templeton skin tags.
Skin tags are very common and according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, almost 50% of adults have at least one. Men and women are affected equally by skin tags and they generally appear after midlife. Some individuals only have a few skin tags, but others have many. They’re more common in individuals who are overweight/obese, those with diabetes, women during pregnancy (thought to be related to hormonal changes and high levels of growth factors), those with some types of human papillomavirus (HPV), people with a sex-steroid imbalance (particularly if there are changes in levels of estrogen and progesterone), those who have family members with them and individuals with high cholesterol or blood pressure. It’s also been connected to insulin resistance and elevated high-sensitive C-reactive protein (an indicator of inflammation).
Sometimes, skin tags painlessly rub or fall off by themselves. If a skin tag is large, it might burst under pressure. Skin tags can be removed, but this is usually done for cosmetic reasons or if it gets irritated frequently due to its location. There are several options when it comes to removing them. The first are over-the-counter solutions. These work by freezing the skin tag, which will cause it to fall off in 7 – 10 days. Before using any of these products, be sure that you discuss it with your doctor. Any other methods are not recommended for doing at home due to the risk of bleeding and infection.
If your doctor feels that it wouldn’t be safe for you to try to remove your skin tags at home, there are other options that involve a minor procedure done by a dermatologist (skin doctor). There are four possible techniques. Cauterization means that the skin tag is burned off by electrolysis. Cryosurgery is when the skin tag is frozen off using a probe that contains liquid nitrogen. Ligation is where the blood supply to the skin tag is interrupted. Excision is the physical removal of the skin tag with a scalpel. If the skin tag is on your eyelid, you might need to have it removed by an ophthalmologist (eye doctor).
There isn’t anything that you can do to prevent skin tags from occurring. It’s important to be aware of them and have a dermatologist look at it if you have any concerns. In order to reduce the risk of infection, don’t try to remove them yourself without talking to your doctor first.
Most of the time, skin tags don’t cause any harm. Depending on the location, they can be annoying, but there are solutions for that. If you have any questions or concerns about skin tags, please speak with your doctor. If you would like more information, please visit the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology’s skin tag page at https://www.aocd.org/page/SkinTags?