Are you one of the millions of Americans who suffer from skin tags? While not dangerous in any way, skin tags can be annoying, unsightly, and even painful at times, and many patients prefer to have them removed for these reasons. At Dr. Park Avenue in Franklin Lakes, NJ, we are happy to help you explore the best skin tag removal options so you can look and feel your best quickly.
What Are Skin Tags?
Skin tags are small fleshy bumps that appear on the skin. They are made up of skin, fat cells, collagen fibers, and can even contain their own nerve and blood vessels. They are usually attached to the skin by a small stalk. The medical term for a skin tag is “acrochordon”, and they are also referred to as “fibroepithelial polyps” or “soft fibromas”.
Where Are They Found?
Skin tags tend to show up in areas of friction on the skin such as around the neck, in the underarms, under the breasts, in the groin, on the eyelids, and in other skin folds. Skin tags normally start out as small, flesh-colored or pink bumps that, in most cases, remain small and go virtually unnoticed.
In some cases, however, they may grow larger and continue to remain asymptomatic and painless, or they may enlarge and become irritated and painful. Pain, irritation, and even occasional bleeding can be caused by friction from rubbing on clothing and jewelry.
Who Can Get Them?
Some studies have indicated that obesity, type 2 diabetes, and the hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy may be common factors in the formation of skin tags, but there is no clear answer as to why they form or who might be most susceptible to skin-tag development.
There is also no known way to prevent the formation of skin tags. Both males and females can develop skin tags. While they may develop at any age, they are more frequent after age 50. Children rarely if ever have skin tags. Some research has shown that there may be a genetic component, meaning that a patient is more likely to get skin tags if other family members also get them.
Are Skin Tags Dangerous?
Skin tags are benign, or harmless, skin growths that pose no immediate emergency. While not life-threatening, many patients choose to have them removed either because of discomfort or simply because they are unsightly.
If a patient is concerned about the appearance of what may be a skin tag, they should seek the advice of a medical professional for further evaluation and a complete diagnosis.
How Can Skin Tags be Prevented?
There is no truly effective way to prevent skin tags. However, reducing friction by avoiding clothing and jewelry that rub commonly-affected areas such as the neck, underarms, and groin may help to lessen the potential for development.
Once a skin tag is removed, it will not return, but one or more may grow in the same area. Also, eating a healthy diet and staying hydrated can help to regulate blood sugar, which may help lower the chances of having skin tags appear.
How Can I Get Rid of Skin Tags?
According to dermatologists, skin tag removal is a very common and frequently-requested treatment. Many patients wish to have skin tags removed from areas where they are clearly visible simply due to cosmetic reasons.
Other patients have situations where irritation, bleeding, and pain are caused by the skin tags rubbing on clothing or jewelry or getting bumped or banged during regular daily activities, and they wish to have them removed to avoid any further trauma to the area. In any event, skin tag removal is an in-office procedure that is quick, relatively painless, and effective.
What About Over-The-Counter/Do-It-Yourself Home Removal Methods?
Potions, Lotions, Creams, Etc.
While the Internet is loaded with claims about skin-tag removal home remedies and other do-it-yourself methods, the experts are quick to point out that none of these methods have been proven to be at all effective in removing skin tags.
Physicians note that simply placing something as simple and innocuous as apple cider vinegar on your skin will not remove anything, as it is simply not a powerful enough substance to do the job. Other common home-remedy ingredients, such as tea tree extract, can actually cause irritation and/or allergic reactions but will not remove skin tags.
Other methods, such as “strangulation”, or what doctors call “ligation”, can create irritation and infections. These treatments suggest tying dental floss or some other type of thread around the base of the skin tag, cutting off the blood flow, and thus killing the tissue and causing the skin tag to fall off.
However, experts are quick to caution that these actions can be dangerous and may lead to more problems than they claim to solve. It is not recommended that patients try this at home.
There are some products on the market that utilize cryotherapy, or freezing, as a skin-tag removal method. You should always consult with your physician prior to using these products. Discuss with them the potential risks and side effects as well as the proper application of these topical agents, including safety precautions.
Finally, make sure you understand how and when it may be appropriate to re-consult with your physician following the use of these over-the-counter home remedies, such as in the event of infection or incomplete removal of skin tags.
Seek Out a Qualified Professional
The safest, quickest, and most effective skin-tag removal methods can be found in a physician’s office. In most cases, a person wishing to have skin tags removed would visit a dermatologist, a physician who specializes in the treatment of the skin. These professionals and their staff are trained and experienced in skin tag removal and will provide a clean, safe, and efficient treatment method in a sanitary, well-equipped facility.
What Are The Proven Treatment Options?
There are preferred methods for removing skin tags. You and your physician can discuss in detail your particular case and the many options that may be available to you. There are several commonly used methods for skin tag removal:
Each of these methods is a type of procedure done in the physician’s office, and each will achieve the ultimate goal of removing your skin tags. Your dermatologist will present you with options and their suggestions, and together you can decide on the path you choose to follow. With the exception of local wound care to prevent infection, none of these procedures requires any downtime and patients can return to life as usual immediately following their treatment appointment.
For very tiny and/or small skin tags, a common procedure involves freezing, or cryotherapy, using super-cold liquid nitrogen. The treatment area is adequately sterilely prepared by cleansing, followed by the application of a very small amount of liquid nitrogen directly on the skin tag. Approximately 10-14 days after treatment, the skin tag will fall off on its own.
For larger skin tags, your physician may opt to do a procedure called snipping or excision. During this treatment, the doctor cleanses the area thoroughly and may inject a small amount of lidocaine or another local pain killer into the area at the base of the stalk.
Once the area is properly prepared, the skin tag is cut off using sharp scissors or a scalpel. This also encourages healing by covering the treated area with a small scab, protecting it from infection and trauma.
Another popular treatment choice for larger skin tag removal is burning or electrocautery. In this instance, the treatment area is once again cleansed. Then an electric needle or probe is applied to the area and an electrical current is passed through the skin tag. This causes the area to dry out and the skin tag to fall off.
Is Skin Tag Removal Covered by Medical Insurance?
In most cases, the answer is, “No.” Skin tag removal is considered a cosmetic procedure because they are not dangerous and are not known to cause cancer; therefore, the removal procedures are not typically covered by most major health insurance plans.
However, patients should consult with their physician as painful or bleeding skin tags may qualify as other than cosmetic and may be covered. If this is the case, check with your insurance company. Some insurance companies will pay for a certain number of skin tags to be removed, so it makes sense to do them all at one time if the opportunity is available. Again, consult with us and/or your insurance company for further information regarding coverage.
Beware of Other Types of Skin Growths
As a general rule, skin tags are small and flesh-colored or pink, maybe even leaning toward brownish in color. The size and shape are usually fairly consistent and they do not undergo many changes once they have developed. Typically, skin tags are painless and may go virtually unnoticed unless they are in an area of high friction, such as the neck where collars and jewelry can rub.
If you have growths on your skin that are darker in color, irregularly shaped, painful, itchy, red, irritated, or swollen, or if they bleed or show sudden changes in size, you should see your physician as soon as possible, as these growths may be other than benign. Seborrheic keratoses and neurofibromas are two types of skin conditions that may resemble skin tags but should be investigated by a doctor.
Seborrheic keratoses are common on the neck in the same areas where skin tags frequently appear and, like skin tags, they are harmless. These lesions are dark brown or black in color, slightly raised, waxy and/or scaly in appearance, and may itch. Patients may opt to have them removed if they become irritated or troublesome, but they are not harmful or dangerous.
Some people experience the development of nerve tumors called neurofibromas. These form on or just under the skin and appear as small soft bumps. In a majority of cases, these lesions are benign and do not need to be removed. Consulting a physician is the best course of action for handling these types of skin lesions.
What Is The Next Step?
If you are interested in pursuing skin tag removal, or if you have questions or concerns about these or other skin lesions, contact the knowledgeable staff at Dr. Park Avenue in Franklin Lakes, NJ today to schedule your initial skin tag removal consultation.