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What Are Skin Tags? (And Can You Remove Them?)

You know your skin’s appearance can tell you what’s going on internally.

Flushed cheeks may be a sign of increased blood flow, for example. Pimples or rashes could indicate a reaction to certain allergens or irritants. But what about skin tags? What are skin tags, and what do they mean? Most importantly, is there a way to remove them?

Expert dermatology care in Pennsylvania, whenever you need it. Learn more about eDermatology from UPMC.

Exactly What Are Skin Tags?

Skin tags, formally known as acrochordons, are small pieces of flesh that protrude from your skin. They’re attached through a stem or stalk. Skin tags are most commonly found in folds of skin around your neck, armpits, and groin area, and usually appear in people of middle age. While these growths aren’t painful, daily movement can produce friction, which may irritate them.

Knowing the Causes of Skin Tags

While the exact causes of skin tags are unknown, a couple factors may predispose you to them. Researchers have speculated that pregnancy, family history, and friction processes may factor in.

However, the only two proven determinants are age and body mass index, according to research published in the Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences. Maintaining a healthy weight, therefore, is a good way to ensure you’re doing what you can to prevent skin tags.

Treatment for Skin Tags

Understandably, people sometimes prefer to have their skin tags removed. Treatment starts at the doctor’s office.

Here are your removal options:

  • Severing. With the help of surgical scissors or a scalpel, your doctor cuts your skin tag off. This method may require stitches to heal.
  • Freezing. Liquid nitrogen is sprayed or swabbed on to your skin tag. The element conveniently freezes the tissue, with little discomfort. With this treatment, the skin usually heals on its own
  • Burning. If your doctor prefers to superheat the tissue to remove the skin tag, he or she will likely use electricity conducted through a wire. The heat burns the stem of the growth and facilitates a cleaner healing process

Should You Remove Skin Tags at Home?

If you’re wondering how to remove skin tags yourself, you’re not alone. Many people try to get rid of them at home, which is a bad idea. Cutting or burning any part of your skin intentionally can lead to infection and permanent scarring. Instead, contact a dermatologist to get proper care.

Skin tags themselves are usually harmless. However, according to the American Academy of Dermatologists, having numerous skin tags can be an indication of a systemic internal imbalance, like diabetes. That’s why you should talk with your doctor, even if your skin tags aren’t bothering you.

For more information, make an appointment with the experts at UPMC’s Department of Dermatology, who diagnose and treat all types of skin conditions and dermatologic diseases.