What are Skin Tags

You may be wondering what are skin tags because you have found one or more on your skin, or you may have just heard about them and are curious as to people are actually referring to when they talk about skin tags. Skin tags are so common, they affect over half the world’s population.  It’s no wonder so many people are interested to learn more about these common growths. Other names for skin tags are acrochordon, cutaneous papilloma, fibroepithelial polyp or soft fibroma.

Composition

Skin tags are made up of blood vessels and collagen. They generally appear on softer skin, where the blood vessels and collagen fibers get pushed up into the epidermis and form a skin tag. The skin that encapsulates the skin tag is normal skin. It does not have roots.

Diagnosis

Skin tags are diagnosed simply by observation. They are sometimes confused for warts, moles or freckles. Skin tags differentiate themselves by hanging from the skin. When the blood and collagen are pushed up into the skin, it forms a bulb that hangs from a stalk (peduncle). They are usually the same or a similar color to your skin or can appear darker, which is why they sometimes get confused for moles. Skin tags are equally prevalent amongst men and women

Where do they form

Skin tags will usually form where the skin is softer or thinner such as the neck, eyelids, armpits, and genitals. Friction also contributes to skin tags. So they will also form where the skin rubs against itself such as the groin and under the breast. That’s not to say these are the only places they form, but they are the most common. Skin tags are rarely found on the bottom half of the body, such as the legs and feet.

What causes skin tags

Skin tags have a range of causes. There is no one single cause for skin tags. Their appearance can be caused by both internal and external factors.

Friction

This is usually the main catalyst for skin tags to appear. Many of the other causes are what makes your skin susceptible to skin tags. Once that susceptible skin gets constantly rubbed, skin tags have a good chance of forming.

Hormones

A hormone imbalance, even if slight has an effect on our skin. Hormone imbalances or fluctuation can often trigger skin tags to form. Pregnancy is a very common time for skin tags to break out. Many expectant mothers are not aware of this and may be surprised by these sudden growths. Many women may also experience them during menopause. Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which is a condition that affects women’s hormone levels, can cause skin tags to appear.

Age

Skin tags become more prevalent over the age of 40. As we age our skin softens and loses elasticity, making it easier for skin tags to form. Children are not exempt from skin tags as they can appear from as young as birth. Skin tags on children should, however, be checked by your dermatologist. [Link to “find a dermatologist page”?]

Diabetes

Insulin resistance is a common cause of skin tags. High blood sugar can lead to poor circulation when blood vessels are damaged. This affects the skin and makes it more susceptible to skin tags. Seeing multiple skin tags appearing in the same area can be a possible indication of diabetes.

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammation of the GI tract. Skin tags that form from Crohn’s disease generally form around the anus due to the swelling that occurs during a flare-up. Around 37% of people with Crohn’s disease experience persistent skin tags.

Metabolic Syndrome

This is a collection of different health conditions, including elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar levels. Most importantly this syndrome puts you at risk of heart disease, but one side effect of it is skin tags.

Genetics

Your skin tags may be an inheritance. The sensitivity to skin tags is genetic. Not all skin tags are hereditary but for some, genes play a role in the appearance of skin tags.

Weight Gain

Being overweight can be unhealthy. Aside from creating additional folds on the skin, where skin tags readily grow, it also increases the risk of developing diabetes or metabolic syndrome, which can also cause skin tags.

Steroid Use

The use of anabolic steroids causes steroids. They are not as common with prescribed steroids such as prednisone. However, synthetics steroids like anabolic steroids can cause these growths to sprout.

Are skin tags dangerous

Skin tags are harmless growths that are often referred to as benign tumors. This may sound scary, but a tumor is really just “an abnormal growth of tissue resulting from uncontrolled, progressive multiplication of cells and serving no physiological function” (1)

Benign means that its effects are not harmful.  Skin tags are innocuous growths that don’t need to be removed unless the aesthetics bother you, they are irritated or easily caught in your clothes or jewelry or inhibit your movement. It is a good idea to remove skin tags while they are small as some skin tags can grow in size and become more difficult to remove.