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Skin Tags

Skin tags are small, soft growths of skin commonly found on the eyelids, neck, armpits, under the breasts in women, and the groin.

They are not cancerous or pre-cancerous.  They are not contagious. They are not warts.   Everyone gets them, but they seem to be more common in obese people and in pregnant women.  They are not associated with colon polyps.

The cause is not known, but some think that circulating skin growth factors may have a role in their development.  Skin to skin rubbing may also be a factor.

People generally hate their skin tags.  They  think they look ugly and do no not like the bumpy feeling when they touch their skin.

The tags can get inflamed, swollen and tender.   They can get irritated when they rub on collars and clothing.   Women will often cut them while shaving.

There are many ways to remove tags.  An old home remedy is to tie the tags with string or dental floss at the base.  The tag will become black and fall off.  I have read about doing this, but I have not seen it work in my 37 years of practicing medicine.

In my office, I remove them in one of three ways:

1.  Removal with a fine, sharp scissor: The tags are snipped off in a quick, painless manner. If the tags are larger, I give a local anesthetic to deaden any discomfort.   Bleeding is stopped with a chemical or by cautery with an electric current.

2.  Removal by cautery:  I  will frequently numb the tags and lightly cauterize them with an electric current.  The tags shrivel up and fall off in days to weeks.

3.  Removal by freezing:   I freeze the tags with liquid nitrogen.  I will often use a special pincer so that only the tag is frozen and not the surrounding skin.  The tags become inflamed, turn black and fall off in a week or two.

Removal of skin tags is a cosmetic procedure when it is done just to look better.  Insurance companies do not cover cosmetic procedures, and the patient must pay for the service.

Removal of skin tags is usually covered when the tags are inflamed and irritated.  However, there is never a guarantee that an insurance company will cover skin tag removal even when it is done for medical reasons.

Harry Goldin, M.D.

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