Many people may ask the question: what are skin tags and what do they mean? Are they dangerous? What causes skin tags is relatively unknown though there are a number of factors which are linked to the appearance of the small lumps of skin.
Before the cause of a skin tag is looked for, it is important to define the lesion itself. What is a skin tag? Skin tags are soft pieces of skin which hang down from the body. They can appear anywhere on the body in both males and females, at any age however most people who acquire the lesions are past midpoint in life.
Biopsies of the lesions in the past have shown clumps of collagen and dilated blood vessels to be present. The most common places where skin tags can be found are on parts of the body where the skin tends to rub a lot:
- The crease beneath the breasts
- The upper part of the chest
As mentioned earlier, the specific causes of this particular type of lesion are not fully understood. Over the years of study though, it is clear that there are certain risk factors which may contribute to the appearance of the flaps of skin.
Skin rubbing on skin is thought to be one of the main causes of skin tags so this is why they are more commonly found on the places listed above. This theory also fits with the fact that skin tags are not congenital (present at birth), only acquired through life.
People who are obese are more prone to acquiring skin tags, possibly because there is more skin, forming rolls which rub against each other and cause friction.
People who suffer from diabetes tend to acquire skin tags. There are some medical professionals who are of the opinion that skin tags could actually be a sign of diabetes in a patient.
The hormonal changes in pregnancy are thought to play a role in the production of skin tags by causing the collagen to clump together within the skin.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
Studies have shown a high percentage of skin tags contain the HPV DNA. It is thought that the virus may gain entry as the skin is being rubbed and slight abrasions occur. There are over one hundred strains of this virus however it is thought that strains 11 and 16 are mainly responsible for the formation of skin tags.
Those with immediate family members who suffer with skin tags are more likely to acquire them at some point in life.
The use of steroids for body building may upset the hormone balance and produce skin tags as a result.
As people age and wrinkles form, there are more folds of skin which rub against each other and could lead to the development of skin tags.
It is important to verify the cause of the skin tag to be sure that there is no underlying health issue although it should be noted that all skin tags are benign without exception. In fact skin tags are more annoying than problematic. Therefore, if a patient would like to remove a skin tag because it irritates them or for cosmetic reasons, this is safe to do.
There are a number of methods to remove unwanted skin tags ranging from natural, to shop-bought topical treatments down to surgery. Advice should be sought before any surgery.