People often worry when they notice a growth coming from their skin. There are various skin growths that a lot of people experience; the most common are skin tags.
Skin tags are small, soft balloon-like growth suspended on a slender stalk. Skin tags are pretty normal; however, their causes are yet to be identified. The general belief is that skin tags are developed due to the friction present between adjacent areas of skin or between clothing or skin. They are commonly found at the base of the neck, underarms, eyelids, groin folds, buttock folds, and even under the breasts.
Skin tags are not present at birth. They are acquired during a person’s middle age and the chances of having one increase up to the age of 60. Children may also have skin tags, and they usually grow in the underarm and neck areas. People who are more prone to having skin tags are those overweight people since they have more skin that touches one another.
Pregnant women are also believed to have higher chances of having skin tags due to the increase of hormones. People with Crohn’s disease normally have skin tags around their anal opening.
Skin tags do not cause any physical pain unless it gets irritated, especially if they are located in a repeatedly irritated area like in the collar or in the groin. If it already gets in the way of a person’s daily routine, that’s the time they resort to ways of removing it.
The main cause of removing a skin tag is when it has become irritated and starts to bleed, or it has become black from twisting. But skin tags can also be left alone if it does not give you any discomfort. Because if you force it to be removed, it might cause serious pain and bleeding. Skin tags, especially the small ones, will naturally fall off without any pain.
Skin tags are identified based on their appearance, size, and color. The characteristic that separates skin tags from other skin growths is its peduncle. Some skin growths such as moles, warts, and freckles usually stick with the skin. But skin tags, on the other hand, hang off the skin by a small stalk. Most skin tags are small. Their size is smaller than 2 millimeters. But they could also grow larger for a few centimeters more. Skin tags are smooth to the touch and are usually round. But they could also be rough or wrinkly, and asymmetrical. Some skin tags are seen as threadlike and look just like a grain of rice.
In terms of skin tags’ color, it ranges from the lightest, which is flesh-colored, to the darkest, which is black. The color of your skin tag indicates the amount of blood flow that goes through it.
Some people just can’t keep their hands from touching their skin tags. They sometimes intentionally get it twisted or accidentally have it that way. But when that happens, there are high chances that it might turn black. A thrombosed or clotted skin tag could turn black when there’s a lack of blood flow going through it. This is due to hyperpigmentationthat occurs when there’s an excess of melanin. This makes the skin tag darker in color than the normal surrounding skin.
Are dark or black skin tags cancerous? Definitely not. Regardless of its color, skin tags are not cancerous and cannot turn into any cancer.
When your skin tags change their color to black or purple, there is nothing much to worry about. It will typically fall off on its own in about 3 to 10 days. You don’t have to apply anything or use any device to remove it. But if you wish to have it removed immediately, you could use some apple cider. Dab cotton with apple cider over the skin tag. Then wrap it with a bandage for 15 to 30 minutes. You could repeat this every day until the skin tag falls off. Apple ciders are believed to effectively break down the tissue that surrounds the skin tag.
A skin tag may also turn red in color and may cause throbbing pain. This happens when there is more blood flowing through the skin tag. The tag may bleed if caught on something and may cause a lot of discomforts. It is advised to consult a medical professional when this happens and if it is desired to be removed.
Although skin tags are normal and will fall off after several days, it could also mean something else. Recent studies have discovered that skin tags are maybe early signs or symptoms of a serious condition. Skin tags have always been classified as a cosmetic problem, and their medical significance is often ignored. There are various medical terms used to address skin tags.
They include soft words, acrochordon, cutaneous tags, skin fibroma, and fibroepithelial polyps. Although medical professionals still have unclear views about how skin tags develop, they have theorized that the friction present on skins touching each other causes the existence of a skin tag. But they also do not close the possibility that another factor for its presence is a viral infection. Some researchers also suggest that skin tags are caused by hyperinsulinemia. This is because insulin is tagged as a growth-stimulating hormone. If skin tags are looked at in the microscope, they have a fibrovascular core that induces mild chronic inflammation.
Recent researches found that though skin tags may appear benign, there could be cases where they might be associated with a certain clinical condition. These studies are still under further digging since they are still preliminary and sometimes conflicting. But with the basis of the recent studies, it is advised that health care clinicians should be highly aware of the associated clinical conditions with skin tags, especially when the person coming to them has multiple of them.
It is important to screen the patients immediately because the skin tags might indeed indicate something else. Some of the conditions that are associated with skin tags are acromegaly, colonic polyps, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, hypertension, lipid disorders, and acanthosis nigricans.
People who have skin tags that go on large numbers have high risks of having acromegaly. It is a hormonal disorder that develops when the pituitary gland releases more growth hormones than usual. It increases the size of your bones, including those of your hands, feet, and face. Pigmented skin tags are usually seen over the trunk of patients who have acromegaly. It’s still not quite clear whether GH/IGF-I excess causes the skin tags to form or if they are present since there are insulin resistance and dyslipidemia.
Acromegaly is diagnosed through an IGF testand oral glucose tolerance test. If acromegaly is left untreated, the body will continue to release too many growth hormones. And if this happens, it could lead to joint problems, pituitary hormone deficiency, and respiratory problems.
Skin tags are also associated with colonic polyps. Colonic Polyps are small clumps of cells that form on the lining of the colon. They are usually harmless, but they could also develop into colon cancer, which is fatal in later stages.
Most of the patients who are diagnosed with colonic polyps have the presence of skin tags. Researchers have found out that the specificity of the presence of skin tags serving as a marker for colonic polyps were greater than 75%. This means that skin tags may serve as a way to identify patients who are at risk of having this condition. Polyps are not skin tags, but they are described as small lumps that grow in the colon just like skin tags grow on our skin.
Colonic polyps are diagnosed through colonoscopy. It is tagged as the most sensitive test for colorectal polyps and cancer. If the polyps are confirmed, the doctor would suggest its removal. Or they could also take tissue samples or biopsies for it to be analyzed. If the patient has multiple polyps or the polyp is bigger than a centimeter, there is a high chance that it is cancerous.
Skin tags may also indicate that the patient has risks of having Crohn’s disease. This is a type of inflammatory bowel disease. The inflammation that occurs on the digestive tract may lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition. Skin tags that are caused by Crohn’s disease are large, edematous, hard, and cyanotic.
The skin tags mostly form from the lymphedema secondary to lymphatic obstruction. It also often coexists with intestinal inflammation. Surgical removals of the skin tags caused by this disease are not advisable because the wound might not heal immediately. Although they are harmless, the skin tags might get irritated in the anal area when the feces get stuck in them.
There is no certain test to diagnose Crohn’s disease. If you happen to have symptoms of it, the doctor might order blood tests, colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, or tissue biopsies.
Diabetes is also associated with multiple skin tags. When someone is diabetic, their pancreas either doesn’t create enough insulin, or the body refuses to use insulin the way that it should. People may have skin tags, which is an indication that they might have too much insulin in the blood of type 2 diabetes. There are no explanations as to how skin tags are associated with diabetes. But it appears to be connected to the body’s resistance to insulin. However, further studies are still needed to confirm this.
Diabetes is diagnosed with fasting sugar blood tests or with A1c blood tests, also known as glycated hemoglobin tests. This particular test is done after fasting for at least 8 hours, which means no eating and drinking for that duration of time.
Hypertension is also linked to skin tags. People who are obese or overweight commonly have skin tags, and they are at risk of hypertension since their blood pressure tends to get high when it takes more force for the blood to flow in their blood vessels. That makes skin tag a marker of increased risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
Lipid disorders are seen to be connected with the occurrence of skin tags. The disorders that are associated with the lipids are Gaucher diseaseand Tay-Sachs disease. If you have a lipid disorder, this means that you have high blood levels at low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. High levels of these substances will eventually increase your risk of developing heart disease.
There’s also dyslipidemia that is characterized as an abnormal amount of lipids in the blood. Clinicians should be in suspicion with people who have skin tags as they are believed to be useful clinical signs of abnormal lipids.
Lipid disorders are diagnosed through a blood test called a lipid profile. It will require you to fast the night before taking the test. It will measure the level of cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
Acanthosis Nigricans is a skin condition that causes a certain part of the skin to be darker in color than the other surrounding skins, specifically in body folds and creases. It is believed to cause the formation of skin tags along with the dark thickening of the skin. High insulin levels in the bloodstream cause the darkening of the skin over certain areas of the body. It could lighten up or go away by treating insulin resistance.
Skin tags, regardless of their color, may it be flesh-like, red, or black, whatever their size and appearance are, should be checked to the doctor for screening. This is very important, especially if the color, size, and appearance of the skin tag change for a short period of time.
Clinicians have to be aware of the clinical conditions that are associated with skin tags to have it checked whether it connects to a certain illness. Because even though skin tags are deemed non-cancerous, there are recent studies that justify how skin tags could become an indicator of a certain condition that could be fatal if left untreated.