What are skin tags?

What are skin tags?

Skin tags, medically known as acrochordons, are small, soft, benign growths that often appear on the skin’s surface. They are composed of loose collagen fibers and blood vessels surrounded by skin. Collagen is a type of protein found throughout the body that provides strength and elasticity to the skin. Skin tags are very common and can occur in both men and women, especially with age. They are typically flesh-colored or slightly darker and may appear as tiny bumps or elongated growths attached to the skin by a small, thin stalk called a peduncle.

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of skin tags is not entirely understood, but several factors are believed to contribute to their development:

  • Friction: Skin tags frequently occur in skin folds and areas where skin rubs against skin or clothing, suggesting that friction may play a role in their formation.
  • Genetics: There appears to be a genetic predisposition to developing skin tags, indicating that they can run in families.
  • Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy or in individuals with certain endocrine disorders, like diabetes, may increase the likelihood of developing skin tags.
  • Age: The prevalence of skin tags increases with age, making older adults more susceptible.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of skin tags due to additional skin folds and friction.

Common Locations

Skin tags are most commonly found in areas of the body where skin folds or creases, including the:

  • Neck
  • Armpits (axillae)
  • Groin
  • Eyelids
  • Under the breasts

Diagnosis and Treatment

Skin tags are usually diagnosed through a visual examination by a healthcare provider. In most cases, they are harmless and do not require treatment unless they become irritated, present cosmetic concerns, or are subject to frequent friction which can cause discomfort.

When removal is desired or necessary, several methods may be employed:

  • Cryotherapy: Freezing the skin tag with liquid nitrogen.
  • Cauterization: Burning off the skin tag using electrolysis.
  • Ligation: Tying off the skin tag at its base with surgical thread to cut off its blood supply.
  • Excision: Cutting out the skin tag with a scalpel or scissors.

Considerations and Prevention

While skin tags are benign and not cancerous, any rapid changes in size, color, or shape should be evaluated by a healthcare provider to rule out other skin conditions, including skin cancer. There’s no proven way to prevent skin tags from forming; however, maintaining a healthy weight and minimizing friction by wearing properly fitting clothes may help reduce the risk.

In conclusion, skin tags are common, benign skin growths that are usually harmless and asymptomatic. Although they do not require treatment unless bothersome, removal options are available for those who seek them for cosmetic or comfort reasons. If you’re concerned about skin tags or any skin changes, consulting with a dermatologist is the best course of action to ensure appropriate care and treatment.

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