For anyone still unsure, what exactly are skin tags?
Firstly, let’s be clear that they’re completely harmless and aren’t a medical emergency. They are an overgrowth of the upper layer of the skin which forms a lump and dab. This then grows outwards creating a stalk that can resemble a mushroom type shape. While it’s true that genetics play a part, they can happen to anyone at any time and are very common – you’re not alone.
Typically, where do they tend to develop on the body?
They mainly appear in body creases like the armpit and groin areas. These are the most common places, but skin tags can occur anywhere on the body - don’t be surprised if you find some around the eyes, and on the neck and chest, even on your thighs.
So why do the occur, aside from genetics?
Usually they flare up in areas of the skin that’s prone to rubbing and friction – hence why armpits are such a sweet spot. But they can also appear post-virus, with some reports showing a link between them and HPV (human papillomavirus). It’s also worth noting that the older we get, the more likely they are to grow. They have also been proven to spring up in response to trauma, pregnancy (skin stretching) and are often associated with diabetes.
Can skin tags ever become dangerous?
It’s very unlikely, however it’s not unheard of for them to become damaged or infected. Especially if they rub against clothing a lot or get caught on jewellery causing a bleed, so just be careful. It also goes without saying that if they start to change in shape or colour or your ever concerned, do get them checked by a doctor.
Are they easy to remove? And if so, is it safe?
If they’re really bothering you, they can be easily removed by laser. This should be carried out by an experienced qualified professional to minimise risk of infection. Never attempt removal yourself. There are three key options: Diathermy, radio frequency or scalpel excisions.
1. Diathermy involves the use of a high energy current of intense heat which destroys the skin tags. The area to be treated is sometimes numbed with a local anaesthetic and then a fine hair-thin needle is introduced to pass the current. The heat destroys the tissue and the skin tag disappears for good.
2. The other option is Radiofrequency (RF) technology which is used as a minimally-invasive way to remove skin tags and other so-called ‘lumps and bumps.’ This involves the passage of radio waves into the skin and different types of electrodes are used depending on the severity of the condition.
3. Finally, the most used approach is through laser therapy; the area is anaesthetised, and a laser quickly cauterises the skin tag. Healing takes place over a week or so, after which there may be a very slight mark visible but usually scarring from this treatment is undetectable. Other more traditional methods include freezing or drying them by repeated applications of relevant chemicals, but this is a much longer course of treatment.
Is there anything we can do to prevent them developing?
Try reducing skin friction where possible, like having a break from wearing necklaces that can rub. A healthy diet and lifestyle can also help to keep blood sugar levels low which in turn can prevent them from forming.
And finally, anything else we should know?
The skin tags we notice in adult life are often formed during childhood and we only spot them when they get bigger, because they’ve grown. If a skin tag is removed, it usually won’t grow back and is gone for good. But if it’s lasered off from a high friction, don’t be alarmed if a cluster of new little ones pop up in time.
For more advice and information on the treatment of skin tags, head to HarleyStreetSkinClinic.com
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