Skin tags are common, benign skin growths that hang from the surface of the skin on a thin piece of tissue called a stalk. They are made up of many components, including fat, collagen fibers, and sometimes nerve cells and small blood vessels. It’s possible that these collagen fibers and blood vessels become wrapped up inside a layer of skin, leading to the formation of a skin tag. The medical term for a skin tag is acrochordon, and they can also be referred to as soft fibromas or fibroepithelial polyps.
Skin tags are frequently found in areas of friction on the skin, such as the neck, underarms, under the breasts, eyelids, and other skin folds. They start as small, often flesh-colored bumps. They may stay that size and go largely unnoticed, enlarge and continue to be painless, or enlarge and become irritated due to friction or pressure.
It’s not entirely clear what causes skin tags, and there are no proven ways to prevent them. Some studies have shown that skin tags are more common in people who have diabetes or are overweight. Pregnancy may also lead to increased numbers of skin tags, most likely due to hormonal changes in the body.
Many methods are available for skin tag removal
Skin tags do not have to be removed. They are not harmful, and will not become so over time. However, some people find them unsightly and choose to have to have them removed. Skin tag removal can be accomplished via a number of different methods. One commonly used method is cryotherapy, in which a physician, usually a dermatologist, freezes off the skin tag using liquid nitrogen. Another option is electrocautery, in which an electric probe or needle is used to burn off the skin tag. Snipping or excision, either with scissors or a scalpel, may be a better option for larger skin tags. Because skin tag removal is considered cosmetic, these procedures are usually not covered by insurance.
Home remedies for skin tag removal are largely unproven
While home remedies are available, their efficacy is largely anecdotal and not supported by significant data. Some commercial kits contain ligation bands that can be placed around the base of skin tags, thereby cutting off their circulation and causing them to fall off. Home “freezing” kits are also available, but typically require multiple applications. Tea tree oil and apple cider vinegar have also reportedly been used to treat skin tags; however, there is little research data to support their effectiveness. Furthermore, these substances often cause skin irritation. Tea tree oil, in particular, is known to cause allergic skin reactions in some people.
Keep an eye out for atypical features
Sometimes, what may look like a skin tag could actually be a different type of skin growth. If you notice a fleshy growth that has features that are not typical of skin tags, such as variations in color, sudden changes in size, or areas of bleeding or pain, ask your doctor to take a look.
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