What are skin tags?
Skin tags or cutaneous tags are very common skin growths that look like soft, hanging skins that stick out. They are also kown as "skin tabs" or barnacles. Skin tags typically occur in the base of the neck, underarms, eyelids, groin folds, and under the breasts. They are usually painless, do not grow or change, and normally occur after midlife. These tags are actually harmless growths. Early skin tags may be as small as a flattened pinhead-sized bump. They could be small (2-5 mm in diameter), but may be as big as 5 cm in diameter. Some individuals may be more prone to tags (greater than 50-100 tags) either through increased weight, in part combined with heredity, or other unknown causes. They are more common in people who are overweight, diabetic or during pregnancy. They are thought to occur from skin rubbing against skin, so they commonly form in skin folds.
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. 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. Since skin tags are thought to arise more readily in areas of skin friction or rubbing, tags are also more common in overweight people. Hormonal changes, especially pregnancy, may cause an increase in the formation of skin tags. Tags are essentially harmless and do not have to be treated unless they are bothersome. They are a benign condition and not directly associated with any other major medical conditions. It could be easily removed by your dermatologists or aesthetic physicians.
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 require periodic removal of tags at annual or even quarterly intervals.
Are skin tags contagious?
No. There is not strong evidence to suggest that common skin tags are contagious. Most likely, people do not catch them from anyone and do not transmit them to anyone.
What problems 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 as, for example, by the collar or in the groin. Cosmetic removal for unsightly appearance is perhaps the most common reason they are removed.
How are skin tags treated?
It is important to keep in mind that skin tags usually do not have to be treated. Deciding not to have treatment is always a reasonable option if the growths are not bothersome. If the tags are bothersome, multiple home and medical treatment options are available:
- Tie off tag at narrow base with a piece of dental floss or string.
- Freeze tag with liquid nitrogen.
- Burn tag using electric cautery or Hyfrecator.
- Remove tag with scissors, with or without anesthetic.
- CO2 lasers
Usually small tags may be removed easily without anesthesia, while larger growths may require some local anesthesia (injected lidocaine) prior to removal. Application of a topical anesthesia cream (Betacaine cream or LMX 5% cream) prior to the procedure may be desirable in areas where there are a large number of tags.
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