Weird little fleshy protrusions can appear virtually anywhere on your body – sometimes they enlarge and even get infected. Sometimes they stay small and innocuous. All of the time, though, they are unwelcome. Skin tags have the medical/scientific name of acrochordon. However, most people simply think of these little nuances as skin tags and put them into the same category as moles and warts. This is not necessarily accurate- but it is not too far off either.
Who Gets Skin Tags and Acrochordons and Why?
These are actually, according to Medicine.net, the most common bumps found on adult skin and they are more common on women than on men. There is a lot of really good information that can be found online about these benign tumors, which may be linked to other underlying physical problems. One of the best sources, which delivers the information in layman’s terms, is Medical News Today, as they detail out medical science’s best guess at the causes and risk factors:
It is not clear exactly what causes skin tags, but it may happen when clusters of collagen and blood vessels become trapped inside thicker pieces of skin. As they are more common in skin creases or folds, they may be mainly caused by skin rubbing against skin. Some people appear to inherit an increased susceptibility to skin tags. Skin tags affect people both male and female.
Skin tags appear to be more common in:
- people who are overweight and obese
- those with diabetes
- women during pregnancy, possibly due to hormonal changes and high levels of growth factors
- those with some types of human papillomavirus (HPV)
- people with a sex-steroid imbalance, especially if there are changes in levels of estrogen and progesterone
- those whose close family members also have skin tags
Studies have found that skin tags are more likely to occur with obesity; dyslipidemia, for example, high cholesterol levels; and hypertension, or high blood pressure. They have also been linked to insulin resistance and elevated high-sensitive C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation. This suggests that skin tags may offer an external sign of an increased risk of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
So while generally harmless, those who have a lot of skin tags, or skin tags that bother them, may want to get a work-up to see if there is something else going on.
So What Exactly Are Skin Tags?
As noted by MedScape, “An acrochordon is a small, soft, common, benign, usually pedunculated neoplasm that is found particularly in persons who are obese. It is usually skin colored or hyperpigmented, and it may appear as surface nodules or papillomas on healthy skin. Most acrochordons vary in size from 2-5 mm in diameter, although larger acrochordons up to 5 cm in diameter are sometimes evident. The most frequent localizations are the neck and axillae, but any skin fold, including the groin, may be affected.”
Sometimes skin tags are not found on a fold of skin, though they most commonly are. They are flesh colored, and generally match up to the skin tone of the person that has them. Almost everyone is going to have one of these at one point in there life, even those who are exceptionally healthy. Some people will have hundreds of them. As noted by WebMD, “skin tags usually don’t cause any pain. However, they can become irritated if anything, such as clothing or jewelry, rubs on them.” Also, they can occasionally become infected which will require medical intervention. When that happens, and in some other circumstances, it becomes important to consider removal of the tag or tags.
Skin Tag Treatment
The method and approach toward skin tag removal is based primarily on the size of the tag, as Allure reports:
If the skin tag is very small, the first thing Geraghty does is spray the bump with cold liquid nitrogen, a non-toxic substance. It’s sprayed out of a can and is approximately -320 degrees Fahrenheit. “We direct this very cold spray of gas onto the spot for a few seconds, then we take a break and then we do a few seconds more and usually that’s enough to make the skin tag fall off within a few days,” said Geraghty… “If the skin tags are a little bigger or they have more of a thicker stalk at the bottom, then I like to just do a miniature injection of lidocaine to numb the skin and just snip them right off with some very sharp sterile scissors. It only takes a second to do…”
Other skin tag removal includes freezing, laser, and surgical removal, as well as skin tag cream. There are even home skin tag removal kits that people can buy. However, there are serious risks that occur with self removal that do not when they are done professionally.