By Libby Mitchell, University of Utah Health
Skin tags. Even the name sounds creepy. A tag of skin? Why would something like that even exist? In reality though, skin tags are extremely common and usually harmless. “They are an outgrowth of normal skin,” said Allyson Sorensen, PA-C, a physician assistant in dermatology with University of Utah Health.
Skin tags can happen on any part of the body but are most commonly found on the neck, under arms, under the breasts and in the groin area. Why these areas? “It is thought that they are related to chronic friction, which is why they are more common in overweight or obese persons,” said Sorensen. “Higher levels of growth factors (like during pregnancy), insulin resistance (more common in people with diabetes) and possibly a genetic component also could all play a part as well.”
While the presence of skin tags can be unsightly and annoying there really aren’t that many reasons to remove them. If they are in locations where they get stuck in clothing or zippers you may want to have them taken off to avoid pain and bleeding. You may also want to have skin tags near the eyes removed. “Some skin tags can become very large and cause problems with vision,” said Sorensen.
If you decide you want to get rid of your skin tags you can either have a medical provider do it or, in the case of small tags, do it yourself with a minimum of pain or bleeding. “If skin tags are small, you can remove them with sharp clean scissors, like cuticle scissors,” said Sorensen. “Or you can tie floss or thin thread at the base of the skin tag and leave it in place until the skin tag falls off.”
In the case of larger tags it is best to have them removed at a medical office. There the providers can administer local anesthesia and control bleeding. In some cases the provider may be able to avoid bleeding altogether by freezing the tags off.
Skin tags are not likely to grow back after they are removed, though others may grow in the same area. For the most part they are harmless and won’t cause any problems other than their appearance. However, as with all skin growths if you notice a change in size or color it’s a good idea to see a medical provider.
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