The gift that keeps on giving?

skin_tags_1.jpgSkin tags are one of the most common skin conditions that afflict us and yet we know little about why they form and how to prevent them. One thing is certain – once you have one of them the chances are that more are coming – it’s like the gift that keep on giving.


What are skin tags?

Skin tags are very common and are often described as skin-colored projections of small piece of hanging skin. They are benign and frequently have small, narrow stalk. Classically, they occur around the neck, underarms, eyelids, and under the breasts. They vary in appearance from smooth to slightly wrinkled. Initially, skin tags start as small, flat or slightly raised pinpoint-sized spot. Skin tags can gradually grow to an impressive size. Some of them can be the size of a grape.


Who can get skin tags?

As mentioned above, skin tags are VERY common. Almost half of the people report having at least one skin tag at some time in their life. They are not present at birth and generally start showing up in adulthood and greatly increase in frequency, as people get older. It appears that skin tags are more common in the areas of friction and, as such, are more common in overweight people. It is thought that hormone elevations, such as those seen during pregnancy, also increase the formation of skin tags, as skin tags are more frequent in pregnant women. In most cases, skin tags are found in otherwise healthy people.


Are skin tags dangerous?

NO. Skin tags are benign and harmless. Occasionally, they can become irritated and inflamed in the areas of friction such as seen around the neck (collar or the shirt) or in the groin. In addition, most people find multiple skin tags unsightly. Skin tag removal for aesthetic reasons is very common. It is important that this not be done at home as there is potential for significant bleeding, infection and scarring. Only qualified medical personnel should remove skin tags. I have seen too many problems with casual removal of seemingly easy to remove skin lesions.


Are skin tags cancers?

Skin tags are a type of growth of tissue, usually skin and maybe some fat, but are completely benign. They are not malignant and have no potential to become malignant. If you have concern regarding your skin tags, it is worthwhile to have them examined by a dermatologist – your skin care expert. Dr. Sapijaszko would be happy to assess you and examine the skin tags making sure they have benign features.

skin_tags_2.jpgThere are several very effective ways to remove skin tags but all such removals should be performed by qualified medical personnel. They can be removed using surgery (scalpel, scissors or laser), cryotherapy (freezing with liquid nitrogen) or cautery (devices that use heat to treat unwanted skin lesions). Improper treatments can result in scarring or changes in pigmentation. Even the skin tags in delicate areas of the body such areas around the eyes can be successfully removed. Since these removals are done for cosmetic reasons, they are not covered by government health plans. The costs are modest and, in most cases, the results are worth the money.


Are there any home remedies that can be used to remove skin tags?

Although, there are some self-treatments that can be used to remove unwanted skin tags, I would caution patients to exercise care and good judgment when trying to decide if doing-it-yourself is the way to proceed. Some of the complications of home treatment are infection, scarring, pain, bleeding and local changes in skin colour.

One of the more popular home remedies includes tying off the stalk of the skin tag with a piece of thread and allowing the tag to fall off over several days. It can work quite well when the skin tag is accessible but this method should not be attempted in difficult locations such as areas around the eye. One thing is certain; removing one skin tag does not make more skin tags grow.

Skin tags are a nuisance and most people would rather not have them. Having a single skin tag is not too bad but the presence of even one skin tag can herald arrival of more in the future. If you are concerned with the way they look or feel, contact your physician or a dermatologist and consider having them removed. 

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