Thursday, May 13, 2010

Skin Tags

What is a skin tag?

Skin tags are common, acquired, benign skin growths that look like a small piece of soft, hanging skin. Skin tags are harmless growths. Some individuals may be more prone to tags (greater than 50-100 tags) either through increased weight, part combined with heredity, or other unknown causes. Males and females are equally prone to developing skin tags. Obesity and being moderately overweight (even temporary increases) dramatically increase the chances of having skin tags. Normal weight individuals with larger breasts are also more prone to skin tags under their breasts. Some small tags spontaneously rub or fall off painlessly and the person may not even know they had a skin tag. Most tags do not fall off on their own and stay around once formed. The medical name for skin tag is acrochordon.

Skin tag are bits of skin- or flesh-colored tissue that project from the surrounding skin from a small, narrow stalk. Some people call these growths "skin tabs" or barnacles. Skin tags typically occur in characteristic locations including the base of the neck, underarms, eyelids, groin folds, and under the breasts (especially where underwire bras rub directly beneath the breasts). Although skin tags may vary somewhat in appearance, they are usually smooth or slightly wrinkled and irregular, flesh-colored or slightly more brown, and hang from the skin by a small stalk. Early or beginning skin tags may be as small as a flattened pinhead-sized bump around the neck. While most tags typically are small (2-5 mm in diameter) at approximately one-third to one-half the size of a pinky fingernail, some skin tags may become as large as a big grape (1 cm in diameter) or a fig (5 cm in diameter).

Where do skin tags occur?

Skin tags can occur almost anywhere on the body where there is skin. However, the top two favorite areas for skin tags are the neck and armpits. Other areas include the eyelids, upper chest (particularly under the female breasts), buttock folds, and groin folds. Tags are typically thought to occur in characteristic friction locations where skin rubs against skin or clothing. More plump or chunkier babies may also develop skin tags in areas where skin rubs against skin like the sides of the neck. Younger children may develop tags at the upper eyelid areas, often in areas where they may rub. Older children and preteens may develop tags in the underarm area from friction and repetitive irritation from sports.

Who tends to get skin tags?

More than half if not all of the general population is reported to have skin tags at some time in their lives. Although tags are generally acquired (not present at birth) and may occur in anyone, more often they arise in adulthood. They are much more common in middle age, and they tend to increase in prevalence up to age 60. Children and toddlers may also develop skin tags in these underarm and neck areas. Since skin tags are thought to arise more readily in areas of skin friction or rubbing, tags are also more common in overweight people.

Hormone elevations, such as those seen during pregnancy, may cause an increase in the formation of skin tags, as skin tags are more frequent in pregnant women. Tags are essentially harmless and do not have to be treated unless they are bothersome. Skin tags that are bothersome may be easily removed during or after pregnancy, typically by a dermatologist.

Skin tags are a benign condition and not directly associated with any other major medical conditions. Skin tags are commonly found on healthy people and do not have to be removed.

How are skin tags treated?

It is important to keep in mind that skin tags usually do not have to be treated. Deciding to have no treatment is always a reasonable option if the growths are not bothersome. If the tags are bothersome, multiple home and medical options are available:

* Tie off tag at narrow base with a piece of dental floss or string.

* Freeze tag with liquid nitrogen.

* Burn tag using electric cautery or Hyfrecator.

* Remove tag with scissors, with or without anesthetic.

There are several effective medical ways to remove a skin tag, including removing with scissors, freezing (using liquid nitrogen), and burning (using medical electric cautery at the physician's office).

Usually small tags may be removed easily without anesthesia while larger growths may require some local anesthesia (injected lidocaine) prior to removal. Application of a topical anesthesia cream (Betacaine cream or LMX 5% cream) prior to the procedure may be desirable in areas where there are a large number of tags.

Dermatologists (skin specialist doctors), family physicians, and internal medicine physicians are the doctors who treat tags most often. Occasionally, an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) is needed to remove tags very close to the eyelid margin.

There are also home remedies and self-treatments, including tying off the small tag stalk with a piece of thread or dental floss and allowing the tag to fall off over several days.

The advantage of scissor removal is that the growth is immediately removed and there are instant results. The potential disadvantage of any kind of scissor or minor surgical procedure to remove tags is minor bleeding.

Possible risks with freezing or burning include temporary skin discoloration, need for repeat treatment(s), and failure for the tag to fall off.

There is no evidence that removing tags causes more tags to grow. Rather, there are some people who may be more prone to developing skin tags and may have new growths periodically. Some patients even require periodic removal of tags at annual or quarterly intervals.

Article taken from MedicineNet


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