Skin tags are small benign growths attached to the skin by a small thin stalk. Skin tag removal is a simple process completed by a doctor. Removing skin tags at home can be painful and often bleed heavily or become infected.
What is a skin tag?
A skin tag is s small growth of skin and fibrous tissue that can arise anywhere but are found more often in armpits, around the neck, under breasts and around the eyes. They are also known by the medical term fibroepithelial polyp.
Can skin tags be harmful?
Skin tags are an annoyance or cosmetic issue rather than a harmful problem, but there is an association with obesity and diabetes (NIDDM or Type 2 diabetes) due to the hormonal and physical changes associated with obesity and NIDDM. If you ever notice a new spot or growth on your skin then you should get a skin check.
Who gets skin tags
Anyone can get skin tags but they can run in families and be associated with obesity and NIDDM
Skin tags occur when extra cells grow in the top layers of the skin. When the skin rubs against itself skin tags are developed, so they are more common in people who have have folds of skin, for example people who are overweight or the elderly. You’re most likely to find one in an area where your skin rubs together, or in folds, like your neck, armpits, eyelids, under your breasts, or in your groin. People who are overweight or have diabetes can get skin tags more often. Pregnant women are also more likely to develop skin tags, although they usually disappear after the baby is born. Children don’t usually get them, but they occur just as often in both men and women.
Why get skin tags removed?
Skin tags are usually removed because they are irritated by rubbing or for cosmetic reasons
If you decide to have a skin tag removed – for example, because it is bothering you or you don’t like its appearance – talk to your doctor. Most skin tags are painless and don’t cause any symptoms. But if they rub on clothing or jewellery they may get sore and bleed. It is not necessary to get them removed, but you may feel more comfortable with the skin tags removed.
How are skin tags removed?
Removal of skin tags can be done at home by tying a piece of thread around the base and pulling it tight, but this can be painful and can take up to a week for any individual skin tag to come off.
Removing them as an office procedure is quick and simple and involves either cryotherapy (can take up to a week to come off and be swollen and uncomfortable) or diathermy and/or a shave procedure.
The quickest and more comfortable method of removal is done by either diathermy and/or a shave procedure. A small amount of local anaesthetic is put at the base of the skin tag and then the diathermy is used to destroy the skin tag, or the skin tag is shaved off and sent for histology if it is larger. The base is then cauterised with the diathermy instrument. Usually the result is a small scab that takes a week or so to fall off
Will the skin tag come back?
If the skin tag is destroyed with diathermy and the blood supply destroyed as well, then they are very unlikely to come back, however new ones may grow around the area where the skin tag was removed. Generally they are harmless and won't cause any problems other than their appearance or general irritation. However, as with all skin growths, if you are at all concerned it's a good idea to get a skin check at a skin cancer clinic. Early detection saves lives.