Skin tags are small out pockets of skin that are usually connected to the body by a stem. These growths often form in folds of skin, such as the underarms, the groin, the neck, and on eyelids. They are almost always harmless and cause no pain.
The cause of skin tags is often related to obesity or diabetes. Genetics, however, are often blamed as skin tags tend to be seen in family members. Removal of skin tags can be accomplished by several methods. The four that are most commonly used are:
- Cauterization – Heat is used to burn the skin tag off.
- Cryosurgery – The skin tag is frozen off using liquid nitrogen.
- Ligation – This involves interrupting the blood supply to the skin tag.
- Excision – Skin tags are cut off with a scalpel or special scissors.
Why Have a Skin Tag Removed?
Skin tags generally pose no medical threat; some people do not have them removed. There are, however, good reasons to do so. When skin tags are not removed, they can sometimes grow quite large and get snagged on clothing, hair, or jewelry. This can cause them to bleed and be irritated.
Skin tags are often removed because they rub on clothing, causing them to be painful. For example, skin tags may often be found on one’s waist where the waistband of pants may cause them to be painful. They are also often found under a woman’s bra straps, again, causing discomfort.
Skin tags are frequently removed for cosmetic reasons. Skin tags that appear on one’s face, for instance are almost always removed simply because they are unsightly. Similarly, when one wears less clothing, such as in the summer time, many skin tags are removed since they would otherwise be unattractive
Removal of skin tags is usually an easy procedure that is quite successful. Once removed, there may be a tiny scar that will fade over time but the skin tag will not grow back.
Skin Tag Removal Procedure
The procedures for the removal of skin tags are slightly different depending on the method used. However, cauterization, cryosurgery, and excision are commonly performed in the Dr. Schoenfeld’s office as an outpatient. While local anesthetics may be utilized, general anesthesia is rarely necessary.
When one has a skin tag cauterized, the first steps are to clean the entire area with antiseptic, and then to apply a topical anesthetic. The doctor then heats the needle electrically, and applied it to the skin tag thus burning the cells off until the entire skin tag is removed. Finally, a bandage is applied. The advantage to this procedure is that it is relatively quick, taking only about 20 minutes, and it is completed in one session. There is minimal risk of minor scarring or infection and sometimes it can be painful when the anesthetic wears off.
Cryosurgery involves the freezing off of a skin tag. The doctor will dip an instrument into liquid nitrogen for about 15 seconds and then will grasp the stem of the skin tag with it for about 10 seconds. Several skin tags can be treated with the same instrument, making this an ideal method to use if one has multiple skin tags. In addition, this method is virtually pain-free and does not require any bandage, making it an optimal choice for eyelids or other facial removals. The only disadvantage to cryosurgery is that the skin tag does not fall off immediately; it can take one to two weeks for the skin tag to fall off.
Surgical excision is performed to remove skin tags, especially larger ones. The doctor will first clean the entire area around the skin tag to be removed. Anesthetics are applied topically or via a needle to the local area. The doctor will then use a scalpel to cut the skin tag at the base of the stalk. Stitches are rarely needed to close the wound; only when the skin tag is very large does it become necessary. More frequently, a sterile bandage with applied pressure is sufficient. After this surgery, taking care of the wound by keeping it clean and dry is critical. There may be pain when the anesthetic wears off and your doctor may prescribe medication for pain. The advantage to this type of surgery is that it is quick and the skin tag is gone immediately. Risks include potential infection which can be minimized by following the doctor’s instructions.
Who is a Candidate?
Anyone can be a candidate for skin tag removal. Those with skin tags that have become irritated or those who have skin tags that are obviously visible will want to act more quickly. During your consultation with Dr. Schoenfeld he will discuss the various approaches to take for skin tag removal.
Skin tag removal is quick, usually taking less than 20 minutes. It will obviously depend on how many skin tags are being removed at once.
With excision surgery, one can expect some pain after the surgery. Pain should be manageable with over the counter pain medicine or your doctor may prescribe a stronger alternative if it is deemed necessary.
As with any surgery, there is the risk of infection. This is minimized if the care instructions are followed and the wound is kept clean and dry.
You should be able to return to work the following day as long as you are not taking prescription pain medications, which are only indicated in a minority of cases. Depending on the location of the surgical site, it is possible you may be advised not to do any strenuous activity or heavy lifting for a short period of time.
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