Photo credit by Jason Lips
Skin tags can really affect your self-esteem, especially if you are unfortunate enough to develop them on your face or neck. Also known as acrochordons or cutaneous papillomas, skin tags usually develop on areas of the body where there are creases or friction, such as the neck, inner arm, armpit and groin. They are also common on people with moderate to deep wrinkles in their skin. The skin tags do contain nerve endings, so removing them without anesthesia can be painful. Since skin tags are harmless, your dermatologist can usually remove them without much fuss; however most insurance will not cover their removal. If you develop skin tags on your eyelid or anywhere around your eye, an ophthalmologist may be called in to assist with the procedure.
No one is completely sure why skin tags occur. Some factors that seem to contribute to the development of skin tags include obesity, diabetes, pregnancy, and age. Most people believe that skin tags seems are caused, in part, by genetics. In very rare cases, skin tags are associated with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or BHD Syndrome. If you develop skin tags, it is important that you visit your doctor to rule out the possibility of any complications. Despite the urge you might have to remove them yourself, in most cases skin tags should be removed by a physician. Typical at-home treatments include cutting off blood flow to the area with dental floss, or cutting them off with scissors.
In many cases, people choose not to remove skin tags, as they are harmless. However, they can become problematic if they are irritated by your clothing or jewelry.
There are several ways of removing skin tags that your physician or dermatologist may be able to offer to you:
1. Cauterization, as with an electrolysis instrument
2. Excision with a scalpel
3. Ligation, or cutting off the blood supply (commonly done on larger skin tags)
4. Freezing with liquid nitrogen, as is commonly done for wart removal. This procedure is also referred to as cryotherapy.
Generally speaking, you will be given a local anesthetic such as lidocaine before any measures are taken by your doctor to remove the skin tag.
Skin tags are a type of benign cancerous growth. Research has not shown that skin tags have a tendency to become malignant if left untreated. It may take more than one treatment to remove a skin tag. It is an old-wives tale that removal of skin tags causes more to grow back in it's place, but there is no research to support that claim.