Several skin conditions can make it difficult to achieve the clear, smooth skin so many of us desire. No matter how well you care for your skin, you might encounter little bumps, marks, and other anomalies from time to time. It’s not always easy to distinguish a mole from a wart or a skin tag, but each of these lesions has different causes and implications and therefore must be treated differently.
Skin tags can usually be identified by their location, shape, and size. Those with skin tags may feel self-conscious about their appearance and go to great lengths to cover up these growths. If you have skin tags of your own, you might share these feelings. But aside from cosmetic concerns, should you be worried about your skin tags?
Skin tags are small, hanging flaps of skin, usually attached to a stalk. These benign tumors can be flesh-colored like warts, or darker, resembling moles. Skin tags most often appear on the eyelids, armpits, groin, underneath the breasts, and around other skin folds. Someone might have one or just a few skin tags, while others may have hundreds at once.
It’s not entirely clear what causes skin tags, but friction from clothing may bring them about and/or exacerbate these lesions. Most people begin to develop skin tags in middle age, and obese individuals are more likely to have them. Some skin tags fall away from the skin on their own, while others can stick around for years without intervention.
We often associate the word “tumor” with “cancer,” and therefore, “dangerous.” However, not all tumors pose a health risk.
Tumors are classified as either malignant or benign. Malignant tumors refer to those with the potential to quickly spread throughout the body, destroying healthy tissue along the way. Benign tumors, on the other hand, stay in their lane, so to speak.
Skin tags, which are benign, are therefore limited to the space they inhabit, posing no threat to your body. And, if removed, benign tumors typically do not return, while malignant tumors can.
So, no, skin tags are not dangerous. That said, your skin tags might be associated with poor health, obesity, or an underlying disease like diabetes or HPV. If this is the case, it’s important to address these deeper health concerns.
You may also develop lesions that look like skin tags but are actually malignant or premalignant. That’s why it’s important to have your dermatologist examine your skin regularly.
Additionally, just because skin tags can’t kill you doesn’t mean they won’t concern you at all. As mentioned earlier, these growths can cause emotional stress. Not only that, but larger skin tags can become physically irritating, and make it difficult to shave or wear certain types of clothing. Fortunately, if you’re indeed worried about your skin tags, there are ways to take care of them.
Skin tags don’t usually require treatment, but they can be removed in a number of ways. Skin tag removal methods include excision, cryosurgery, cauterization, and ligation. Excision simply refers to cutting away the skin tag with a scalpel or special scissors. Cryosurgery is a fancy way of saying “freezing,” and is also commonly used to remove warts. With cauterization, the skin tag is burned away via electric current. And ligation is a process by which blood is cut off from the skin tag so it eventually falls off (kind of like a scab).
Only a trained dermatologist (or other qualified professional) should perform these skin tag removal surgeries. While some skin tag treatment options can be purchased over the counter and performed at home, attempting to remove a skin tag yourself increases your chance of bleeding, scarring, and infection.
While you shouldn’t worry about skin tags affecting your overall health, you can’t help it if these growths affect your self-esteem. At Southeast Dermatology Specialists, we want our patients to not only feel comfortable in their own skin, but love their skin, too.
Our team of skin care professionals can help you take care of your skin tags and so much more. Contact us to ask us questions and learn more about our services and providers.