Skin tags are usually skin toned, but, can appear a little darker than this on some people, and have a predilection for developing on the neck, armpits, groin, inner thigh, or under the breasts. They are also commonly found in skin folds such as under the buttocks, the abdominal apron, and even awkward areas like the eyelids. They can range in size from a few millimetres to a few centimetres and can slowly enlarge over time.
Structurally, skin tags are made up of a core of loosely arranged and bundled collagen fibres and blood vessels enclosed by a thickened or thinned out epidermis.
Skin tags are often pedunculated; this means they are on a stalk. In other words, they consist of a larger fleshy mass connected to the rest of the body by a much thinner ‘stalk’ of skin. Less commonly, they may be filiform. Meaning that they can look like a root on a plant. Very small skin tags can simply appear as soft fleshy bumps.
One question I often receive concerns the causes of skin tags. Just what is it that makes them appear? Ultimately, no one really knows- they are a bit of a medical mystery!
As they tend to appear more on skin folds and on obese, or overweight, people, it may be, at least in part, due to the mechanical friction and rubbing of the skin. This mechanical irritation may cause the growth of this ‘extra flesh’. However this is by no means a definite cause and weight cannot be the only factor dictating whether or not skin tags will develop, as they are found on patients of of all shapes and sizes.
Additionally there are a variety of conditions that have been linked to skin tags. Pregnancy for example, can result in skin tags, as can endocrine disorders such as Acomegaly or Addisons Disease. This may be due to an increase in growth factors.
While skin tags are not infectious and cannot be passed from one person to another, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which is the cause of viral warts, may be implicated in causing them.
Another possible factor that can effect how like a person is to develop skin tags is insulin resistance, which can be linked to Metabolic Syndrome. This may be related to a higher likelihood of being obese.
Diabetics are also seen to develop skin tags more commonly, as are people with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which is again linked to obesity. Sufferers of inflammatory bowel disease or Crohn’s Disease, have a tendency to develop skin tags around the anal opening, which can become quite irritated. Skin tags seem to affect males and females equally and do not appear to have any racial preference. They do seem to run in families, though, so there may be a genetic component involved.
Skin tags are not present from birth, but become increasingly likely the more you age. This is especially true from middle age onwards and throughout later life - part of the joy of getting older.
Good News – we remove them!
The procedure for removing a skin tag is simple and very common. The offending blemish is cauterised and removed in a process that takes just a few moments and causes, at most, only mild discomfort.
Recovery is very quick and, once the area has healed, patients are left with flat skin and no sign of the skin tag.