Skin Tags Information: Causes And Treatment

Ways to to remove unsightly blemishes as well as numerous theories on what causes them.

With age, many people begin to develop small flaps of skin over their bodies called skin tags. Labeled in the medical community as cutaneous papilloma or acrochordon, these tiny growths are not malignant, but they can be very bothersome. This is because they usually develop on parts of the body where the skin or clothing causes friction (i.e. under breasts, in armpits, on the neck, across the chest, and throughout the groin).They are thought to be unattractive and are easily irritated, so many people choose to have them removed. The following article will present the potential causes of skin tags as well as options for eliminating their presence.

What causes skin tags?

Doctors have yet to isolate the exact cause of skin tags, although they have several theories and have discovered several conditions that make their appearance more likely. Females are more prone than males to skin tags, but both genders tend to notice their occurrence more as they get older. At middle age, they begin showing up in different sizes and colors. Sometimes skin tags are hardly noticeable since they can be tiny (approximately one millimeter in size) and about the same color as the surrounding skin. However, in other individuals, skin tags are rather large, up to five centimeters and more, and are substantially darker than the epidermis. Often, these growths are attached to the skin by a stem-like penducle, which gives them a distinct teardrop appearance. Skin tags also tend to grow in sets, which can add to their unsightliness.

Diabetics (type two mellitus) and very overweight people seem to be especially likely to develop skin tags, which have led to several hypotheses about their causes. It is possible there is a link between insulin problems and the growths. Others suspect that excessive amounts of growth factors contribute to their appearance, since pregnant women and people suffering from gigantism also have a higher development rate. Still others believe that the virus that causes warts (human papilloma virus) is to blame. This is because skin tags, which are harmless dermal/epidermal growths, bear similarities to warts. Finally, many doctors suspect that skin tags are simply the result of friction since they show up on parts of the body where skin rubs together or clothing chafes. It is likely that there are myriad causes for these benign tumors, which vary depending on the individual. Whatever the root of skin tag growth, treatment is as simple as a trip to the family doctor or dermatologist.

How are skin tags removed?

There is no real medical reason to have skin tags removed unless they behave abnormally, suddenly growing or changing color or shape, for instance. This could indicate that the growth is not benign and would warrant a biopsy. However, many people are constantly reminded of skin tags for one reason or another. Clothing might rub on them and cause pain and irritation, jewelry could catch on them, or they could make it hard for a person to shave without causing nicks. Some people are embarrassed by their prominence, especially when they grow in clusters across the neck or eyelids. If skin tags hinder comfort or self-confidence, there is no reason for a person to endure their presence forever. A doctor or dermatologist can remove them in one of several ways. All of these procedures are relatively painless, and once gone, skin tags do not grow back.

One of the most common skin tag removal methods involves using liquid nitrogen to "freeze off" the desired flap of skin, a procedure known as cryotherapy. Previously, doctors applied the freezing agent directly to the skin tags, but cold blisters can appear on the surrounding skin if the liquid nitrogen accidentally comes into contact with it. For this reason, most doctors now submerge the tips of special forceps in the liquid nitrogen. Next, they clamp the skin tag for approximately fifteen seconds to freeze it. After approximately a week, the skin tag will fall off on its own. Although this procedure usually only causes a bit of a stinging sensation in patients, some doctors give a shot of local anesthesia to dull pain. One treatment is generally sufficient for small skin tags, but larger ones may have to be frozen several times over the course of a few weeks to achieve the desired results.

Another popular way of removing skin tags is involves cautery, the medical term for electrically burning the skin to close the wound after the growth has been cut off.This procedure is well suited to treating larger skin tags because it staunches bleeding afterwards and accelerates healing. Again, the doctor will first give you a local anesthetic. Next, he will use a pair of medical scissors to cut off the skin tag completely. He may cauterize the wound or may simply apply pressure to stop the bleeding. Adhesive bandages will be applied to the wounds, which will need to be kept clean and covered until they have healed. Some patients prefer this method because it offers immediate results. However, others choose legation, which involves cutting off the blood supply to the skin tag by wrapping string around the base. Like cryotherapy, this method results in the eventual shedding of the tag with minimal pain and damage to the skin. With all treatments, there is a chance of minor scarring, which can be avoided by keeping broken skin clean and using scar-prevention products (i.e. Mederma) afterwards.

Although skin tags can be eliminated easily and permanently, doctors do not recommend that patients try to do so at home. This could lead to unnecessary pain or infection, so always see your health care provider for treatment. All of the above mentioned treatments are inexpensive (around $150), although they are generally not covered by insurance because they are considered cosmetic. It should be mentioned that there is no way to prevent recurrence on other parts of body, as the cause is not understood. However, skin tags are harmless, so people who can tolerate their appearance and can handle occasional irritation need not have them removed.

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