What Are Skin Tags?
In the medical community, skin tags are known as acrochordons. They are small growths, or flaps of tissue, that stick out from the surface of the skin. Skin tags are commonly the same color as the flesh or a little darker. They typically remain quite small, ranging from 1 to 2 centimeters, but they may grow larger.
Generally, they do not cause any pain or discomfort. However, if they are subjected to friction or damage caused by clothing or jewelry, a small blood clot may occur, resulting in pain. While it may be tempting at that point to simply cut it off, this is not an acceptable way to remove a skin tag. The best practices for how to remove skin tags at home do not involve cutting; this is dangerous and may lead to a severe infection and permanent scarring.
Signs & Symptoms
Skin tags are small flaps of tissue that hang off the skin. They are typically 2 to 3 centimeters; however, they can grow larger than 5 centimeters. Common areas where skin tags are located include:
Eyelids and under the eye
Under arms and in armpits
Under the breast
On the neck
In and around the groin area
Your physician or dermatologist will conduct a physical examination of your skin to determine if it is a skin tag or other skin ailment. In some cases, a biopsy may be ordered to rule out skin cancer.
There are currently five conventional skin tag treatments used by dermatologists, depending on the size, location and condition of the skin. Discuss all options thoroughly with your health care provider to determine how to get rid of skin tags that are causing you distress. Remember, as they are generally not considered a medical condition, chances are your health insurance will not cover the removal options listed here. You likely will be required to pay out-of-pocket for these procedures.
Surgery. Your physician may recommend an in-office procedure where the skin tag is removed with a scalpel. This will involve a topical anesthetic and little downtime.
Cryotherapy. In researching how to remove a skin tag, freezing often comes up in search engines. However, it requires more than just the application of an ice cube at home. A liquid nitrogen compound is carefully applied to the affected area. This procedure is best for those with lighter skin and in areas where there is little hair growth. (6)
Cauterization. Burning off a skin tag should never be attempted at home. This is a procedure that must be conducted by an experienced medical professional. Electrocauterization requires a special tool that is heated and then carefully applied to the skin tag; the skin tag may not come off immediately. It may fall off in the hours or days following the procedure.
Tying a String. For an elongated skin tag, your physician may tie a sterile string around the base to cut off the blood supply, causing the skin tag to die. As skin tags do have a blood supply of their own and doing this technique improperly can cause excessive bleeding, it is not recommended to do this yourself. When deciding how to remove skin tags, there are other safe and effective at-home treatments you can try.
Laser Removal. Lasers are used often today in skin care clinics, spas and dermatology offices. For minor procedures, like removing skin tags, CO2 lasers are used. This is generally considered safe and is done in concert with a topical or local anesthesia.
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