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Cutaneous skin tag

Definition

A cutaneous skin tag is a common skin growth. Most of the time, it is harmless (benign).

Alternative Names

Skin tag; Acrochordon; Fibroepithelial polyp

Causes

A cutaneous tag usually occurs in older adults. They are more common in people who are overweight or who have diabetes. They are thought to occur from skin rubbing against skin.

Symptoms

The tag sticks out of the skin and may have a short, narrow stalk connecting it to the surface of the skin. Some skin tags are as long as a half an inch Most skin tags are the same color as skin, or a little darker.

In most cases, a skin tag is painless and does not grow or change. However, it may become irritated from rubbing by clothing or other materials.

Places where skin tags occur include:

  • Neck
  • Underarms
  • Middle of the body, or under folds of skin
  • Eyelids
  • Other body areas

Exams and Tests

Your doctor can diagnose this condition by looking at your skin. Sometimes a skin biopsy is done.

Treatment

Treatment is often not needed. Your doctor may recommend treatment if the skin tag is irritating, or you don't like how it looks. Treatment may include:

  • Surgery to remove it
  • Freezing it (cryotherapy)
  • Burning it off (cauterization)

Outlook (Prognosis)

A skin tag is most often harmless. It may become irritated if clothing rubs against it. The growth usually does not grow back after it is removed. However, new skin tags may form on other parts of the body.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your doctor or nurse if the skin tag changes, or if you want it removed. Do not cut it yourself, because it can bleed a lot. Also, the old idea of "tying a string around it" is NOT recommended.

References

Benign skin tumors. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 20.

Kamino H, Reddy VB, Pui J. Fibrous and Fibrohistiocytic Proliferations of the Skin and Tendons. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, et al, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 116.


Review Date: 10/18/2013
Reviewed By: Richard J. Moskowitz, MD, Dermatologist in Private Practice, Mineola, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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