Skin Tags: What They Are and Why We Hate Them

skin_tagThis blog article is not about a sexy new treatment, but rather about a very common and annoying problem called skin tags.  What are skin tags?  People who ask that question usually don’t have them.

Skin tags, as the name implies, are extra flaps of skin that frequently develop in areas of the body prone to looser skin and friction points.  Fortunately, skin tags are not cancerous or dangerous.

However, they can be unsightly, especially around the neck.  They can also be irritating, as people who have them tend to frequently get them entangled with jewelry or clothing.

Skin tags start out very small, and may initially feel like rough skin over an area of skin.  They can grow to fairly large sizes at times if untreated, but they generally top out at the size of a grain of rice.

skin_tags_neckSkin tags can be most commonly found in the natural fold areas of the body such as the neck, the groin, under the arms, and under the breasts.  In these areas, the skin tend to be slightly more loose to accommodate necessary stretching, and also in areas where there is frequently friction from overlying clothing.

Fear not, however! If you have skin tags, you are not abnormal.  In fact, most humans will develop a skin tag at some point in their lives.

Some theories speculate that the tendency to develop skin tags is genetic.  In fact, we frequently see many people in a family that has many skin tags, and others who have no one in their family with any of these annoying areas.

People also tend to get more skin tags as they get older probably due to decreased skin elasticity and tendency to have looser skin in the prone areas.  Obesity can also be a factor, especially with the skin stretching from within.

skin_tags_moles_wartsSince skin tags are benign, no treatment is necessary for purely medical reasons.  If their appearance bothers you cosmetically or these lesions become irritated,  I would encourage you to consult a skin care physician or your primary care provider.

Do not try to diagnose these lesions yourself, especially if they are growing.  We (i.e. doctors or licensed specialists) need to be sure that they are in fact benign skin tags before we are able to deal with them properly.

The safest way to remove skin tags is to have them surgically removed.  While I don’t usually recommend surgical solutions to skin issues, especially plastic surgery, surgery is the best method for removing skin tags, and it is actually a very quick procedure.

how_not_to_get_rid_of_skin_tagsThe major concern is that it needs to be done in a sterile manner to decrease the chance of infection.  I seriously discourage do-it-yourself or homespun methods, as they can lead to infection and frequently leave more of a scar than is necessary.  Your doctor or a skin care specialist with the right equipment and sterile technique can remove many skin tags quickly and with little, if any, pain.

Despite old wives tales to the contrary, removing skin tags does not cause more to grow.  The removed skin tags are gone permanently.  If more grow after one is removed, it is because of your skin itself or your heredity.

There is a certain size of skin tags that is optimal for removal.  Your primary care provider, or even I, can tell you where you are on the spectrum with a quick look.

Keep in mind that since skin tags are benign and primarily a cosmetic problem, their removal is not a “covered service” under any insurance plan.  However, skin tag removal is fairly inexpensive compared to many other skin care procedures.

During a free skin consultation, I can give you a quick estimate as to the cost of ridding you of these unsightly and annoying skin tags.  If you have skin tags, or what you think are skin tags, that you wish to have assessed, call our office at (207) 873-2158 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

About Dr. John Burke

John Burke M.D. has practiced medicine for over 25 years, and is the founding partner of MidMaine Internal Medicine. He established Maine Laser Skin Care in 2004 after devoting years to learning the latest in laser and dermatologic technology. Dr. Burke has treated patients from all over the United States. He is one of Maine's busiest practitioners in laser treatments, and in the use of Botox for upper facial lines and excessive sweating.
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