Skin tags, also known as acrochordons, are benign tumors of the skin that occur in about 50 percent of the population. They are almost always the same color as surrounding skin, and they tend to stay small, typically 2 millimeters (/10 of an inch) in diameter or less. Occasionally skin tags grow as large as 5 centimeters (2 inches) in diameter. They are a localized disturbance in the metabolism of the skin related to insulin resistance. They are most common in people who have diabetes.
Anal skin tags are a different matter. They are most commonly associated with inflammatory bowel disease, especially Crohn's disease. It's not unheard of for them to become malignant, although they are primarily a problem for personal hygiene and appearance. Sometimes an anal "skin tag" is the first appearance of a fistula, an opening of the bowel through the skin other than through the anus, and sometimes what appear to be a skin tag is actually a prolapsed hemorrhoid, the skin around a swollen vein in the rectum that has popped out through the anus. Except when the tissue becomes cancerous, which is very rare, these are not life-threatening occurrences, although they can be unpleasant and inconvenient. Like acrochordons, anal skin tags can also grow up to 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter.
These growths are most likely to occur in front of the anus, usually lined up with the center of the butt cheek. Inflammation caused by bowel disease reduces circulation to the skin, and eventually it can become infected and erode to form an opening to the lower bowel. If you are fortunate, the "tag" stays intact and the anus remains the only opening out of the bowel.
What can be done about anal skin tags?
First of all, there is no practical way to reduce them without medical intervention. There aren't any herbs or natural products that shrink them (although shark oil preparations like Preparation H may relieve swelling and chafing). It doesn't help to stimulate your immune system; in fact, if you can do that with certain immunostimulant herbs, you will probably make the problem worse.
It's not a good idea to try to tie dental floss to the base of the skin tag so it will die and fall off. Aside from the gymnastic required for self-application and maintenance of the ligature, or the need for a very, very good friend to help you, you can introduce an infection by killing some of the tissue in the skin tag without killing all of it. Also, if the problem is a lack of circulation underneath the skin tag, you are setting yourself up for the formation of a fistula that will require surgical intervention.
- Don't make it hard for your doctor to examine the skin tags. The best view is accomplished by holding your knees to your chest, so that the full skin tag will be visible from the front of your body. If your doctor asks you take this pose, it's so your skin tag can be fully examined.
- If you live in a country that has national health insurance, removal of skin tags may be a low priority unless you have issues with infection or cancer in the family. Make sure your doctor knows about these problems if you get your coverage through the NHS in the UK or HealthCanada so your treatment can be more easily justified.
- When you do have surgical removal of your skin tags, be very, very, very careful about personal hygiene as the incision heals. That's not a part of your body you want to become infected.
Still have something to ask?
Get help from other members!