Sunday, 13 March 2016

What you must know about skin tags

Skin tags are harmless and benign, but they are also ugly and embarrassing. There are ways to remove them without hurting the skin.

If you have noticed a growth on your skin recently, examine it minutely. Is the growth like a tiny balloon of skin? Is it light brown or pale pink in colour? Is it painless to the touch? If you answered ‘Yes’ to these questions, you have probably developed a ‘skin tag’.

Skin tags are fairly common in people, though they occur more in people who are over 30 years old and who tend towards overweight or obesity. They are fairly harmless growths and normally they are not a cause for worry. A person may develop a couple of them or hundreds of them in one area of the body. Generally, they occur in the folds of the skin (groin, under breasts, under buttocks, in the creases of the neck and even on the eyelids) though some may appear on the hands and feet as well. The exact cause for their formation is not known, though hormonal changes, elevated blood sugar levels and increased blood fats are some factors that exacerbate their growth. 

They are actually hardened tissue that project out of the skin on a small ‘stalk’. The upper part of the tag may be flat while the rest of it may be roundish in shape. While they are mostly tiny in size, you must see your doctor if the skin tag becomes larger in size, like a grape.

Skin tag removal

Removing skin tags is easy, but it must be done by an experienced dermatologist. There is a long-standing myth that removing them causes more skin tags to appear. This is certainly true of warts, but skin tags do not exhibit this behaviour.

Usual methods of skin tag removal include tying the base with a thread, snipping off with surgical implements or suturing. If possible, you can remove the skin tag yourself at home. Simply twine a thin filament (like a very fine thread or a sturdy hair strand) around the base of the skin tag. Fasten it in place using a Band-Aid strip. This cuts off blood circulation to the skin tag, thus killing it. You can take off the thread after a couple of days. The skin tag will shrivel up and fall off.

Another skin tag removal method is cutting off. However, only a dermatologist should do this. The skin tag is first numbed with an anaesthetic gel, and then simply snipped off with a scalpel. There may be some amount of bleeding, which can be stemmed with a bandage. Post-removal care includes keeping the area clean and applying antiseptic lotion on the site. 

Similarly, a dermatologist may also recommend suturing the skin tag. All of these are effective skin tag removal methods that eliminate the problem forever. Once the site heals, there will be no trace of any skin deformity later.

While skin tags are not a cause for concern, be sure to visit a doctor if the growth becomes sore and painful. Some pre-cancerous skin tags also change colour frequently and grow in size.