What to Do About Skin Tags

Some medical conditions seem harmless but are actually serious, while other conditions might appear serious, but in reality are harmless.

If you’re one of the 46% of Americans who have at least one skin tag, your condition likely falls in the latter category. While that’s good news for you, the question still remains: What should you do about the skin tags you have?

At Melanie Adams Dermatology in Columbia, Maryland, our expert team has been treating skin tags for years. Here’s our best information on how to handle them when you spot them on your body.

What are skin tags?

Skin tags are painless growths that occur on your skin. Noncancerous and flesh-colored, they can be thin with a stalk (called a peduncle) or round in shape.

While skin tags can show up anywhere on your body, they’re more common in places where your skin folds or where there’s friction from skin rubbing together — areas such as your armpits, groin, eyelids, thighs, neck, and breasts.

Most skin tags are small, less than 2 millimeters. They’re made up of blood vessels and collagen fibers surrounded by an outer layer of skin. 

We don’t know exactly what causes them, but several factors that could play a role include the human papillomavirus (HPV), insulin resistance, and even pregnancy. 

They can occur at any age, but seem to be more common after age 60. 

How should you treat them?

Skin tags aren’t a health risk, so you can just leave them alone if you want — they won’t cause any damage over time. You may, however, want to remove them for cosmetic reasons, or if they’re causing you discomfort or irritation.

If you do want to remove your skin tag, several methods are effective. (One note of caution: Don’t try to do it yourself at home. Chances are high that you won’t get the whole thing, plus you could cause bleeding and/or an infection.)

The options for skin tag removal in our office include:

Surgery

We numb the area and snip off the tag with scissors or a surgical scalpel.

Cryotherapy

We freeze the skin tag with liquid nitrogen, which causes it to fall off in about two weeks.

Electrosurgery

The skin tag is removed with heat produced by an electrical current.

Ligation

We tie off the skin tag with surgical thread to constrict the blood flow and cause it to die off.

Any of these methods offer relatively quick results with no downtime and no complications. If, however, you have a growth on your skin that you think is a skin tag, make sure it’s not bleeding, itching, or changing color or shape. 

If any of these things happen, contact us right away so we can rule out a more serious condition, such as skin cancer.

Skin tags are harmless, but if you have one that’s bothering you, we’re happy to discuss your options for removing it. Just call our office or fill out our online request form to set up an appointment.

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