From ordinary moles, freckles, and liver spots to subcutaneous lipomas and cysts, human skin is prone to developing a wide range of benign (noncancerous) growths. Harmless skin growths are exceptionally common, and virtually everyone develops them to some degree as they get older.
For an estimated one in two adults, benign dermal growths emerge in the form of minor acrochordons, or skin tags. While these small “pillars” of extra skin often go unnoticed, some can be physically irritating or aesthetically displeasing.
Let’s explore what a skin tag is, and why you might decide to have board-certified general surgeon Johnny L. Serrano, DO, FACOS, to remove yours in a quick, in-office procedure at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy in Glendale, Arizona.
What are skin tags?
Skin tags are small growths that hang from the surface of your skin on thin stems. Known to medical professionals as acrochordons, these harmless clusters of extra tissue may be the same color as your skin, or they may be noticeably darker. The average skin tag is:
- Smooth, soft, and pliable
- One to five millimeters in size
- Rounded or oval in shape
- Hanging outward on stalk
Most skin tags are made up of collagen, fat, and small blood vessels, but some contain nerve cells, too. It’s thought that skin tags form when extra epidermal cells in the skin’s topmost layers wrap themselves around clusters of loose collagen fibers and fat cells.
Why do skin tags form?
Experts may know how skin tags occur, but they still don’t know exactly why they appear. What they do know, however, is that while anyone can get a skin tag, certain people are more likely to develop them.
First and foremost, skin tags tend to emerge in natural skin folds or body areas where normal movement causes friction as the skin rubs against itself. Skin tags commonly develop:
- Along eyelid folds
- In neck creases
- Within the armpit
- Along thigh folds
- Beneath breasts
- In the groin region
- Inside genital folds
Skin tags are equally common across genders and increasingly common with age. You may be more likely to develop them if you have type 2 diabetes or you’ve been diagnosed with a low-risk strain of human papillomavirus (HPV).
Women are also more prone to developing skin tags following pregnancy and menopause, which suggests that hormonal changes may, at least in some cases, contribute to their formation.
Can I remove skin tags?
You can’t prevent skin tags, but you can get rid of them. Although most skin tags are small and inconspicuous — and all skin tags are totally harmless — plenty of people opt to have bothersome or irritating skin tags removed by a qualified physician.
As a board-certified general surgeon who specializes in cosmetics, Dr. Serrano uses a variety of effective, minimally invasive techniques to remove skin tags while reducing your risk of infection and scarring. These include:
Larger skin tags with relatively long stalks can often be snipped off with a scalpel or surgical scissors. While a simple excision rarely requires stitches, Dr. Serrano may apply a special medicine to stop any bleeding.
This technique uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy skin tags. It involves swabbing a small amount of the super-cold liquid directly onto the skin tag, which causes it to blister and fall off.
Also known as electrosurgery, this technique uses an electrically charged needle, wire, or probe to burn through the narrow stem that holds the skin tag in place. Because the heat also cauterizes the tissue, bleeding is minimal.
If you’re ready to say goodbye to unwanted skin tags, the team at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy can help. Call 602-393-1304 to reach our Glendale, Arizona, office today, or click online to schedule a visit with Dr. Serrano any time.