I get asked ……. Skin tags

Please can you advise me what to do with a couple of small flesh coloured growths that are hanging off my skin? One is on my neck and the other in my armpit. They don’t hurt but I really dislike them and they don’t look very nice! Jennifer Armitage…Salisbury

Answer

Well Jennifer, I do understand your concerns. But, skin tags (acrochordons) are small harmless growths that look similar to warts; they are very common, knobbly and hang off the skin, whereas warts are usually flat. They’re particularly common in older people and people with diabetes.  Pregnant women may develop skin tags, caused by changes in their hormone levels.

Mostly flesh coloured or brown they vary in size from a few millimeters up to 5cm wide and are often found on the neck, armpits, under the breasts or around the groin, under the folds of the buttocks or on eyelids.

Overweight people with excess folds of skin and skin chafing, may develop tags where skin rubs against skin – or clothing. Skin tags are harmless and don’t usually cause pain or discomfort.  If skin tags are small with a narrow base it’s possible to remove them yourself, by tying off the base of the tag with dental floss or cotton thread. This cuts off its blood supply and makes it drop off.  Or you could cut it off with fine sterile scissors.

Some skin tags die from a lack of blood supply and just fall off if the tissue has twisted. Don’t attempt to remove large skin tags yourself, they will bleed heavily.  They can easily be burnt or frozen off so talk to your GP for advice. However, removing skin tags is regarded as cosmetic surgery and rarely available through the NHS. The NHS will only carry out cosmetic surgery procedures if the problem is affecting your physical or mental health.

If the unsightly tags are upsetting you, or snag on clothing, Jewellery and bleed, you may still want them removed. You usually need to pay for this procedure so consider making an appointment with a privately practicing GP. Sometimes they can be surgically removed using a local anesthetic.