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Skin Tags

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What are skin tags?

Skin tags are harmless soft, flesh-colored, rubbery growths that typically hang from the skin by a little stalk. The medical name for them is “acrochordons” and the worst thing about them is the way they look. If they catch on jewelry or clothing, they can be irritating, but apart from the fact that some people find them unattractive, they’re usually nothing to worry about. It’s estimated that overall 46 percent of the U.S. population has skin tags but that number goes up to 59 percent among those age 70 and older.

What are the symptoms of skin tags?

These growths usually are painless and don’t grow or change, although they can become irritated by friction from clothing. They tend to appear on the neck, underarms, in the middle of the body or under folds of skin, and on the eyelids, although they can develop elsewhere on the body. Some can grow to a half inch in length, but most are the size of a grain of rice.

What causes skin tags?

A susceptibility to skin tags tends to run in families, but in general, they are believed to result from skin rubbing against skin. They’re more common in older adults people who are overweight and those who have diabetes. Pregnant women may develop skin tags, possibly due to hormonal changes.

How are skin tags diagnosed?

A doctor can diagnose a skin tag on the basis of its appearance. In extremely rare cases, a skin tag may become precancerous or cancerous. Check with your doctor about a skin tag that bleeds, grows or is multicolored.

What is the conventional treatment of skin tags?

If you want skin tags removed, a dermatologist can snip them off in seconds with a scalpel or scissors, burn them off with an electric spark or freeze them off with liquid nitrogen. Very little bleeding is involved, and no scars form. Because removing skin tags is considered a cosmetic procedure, health insurance usually does not cover the cost.

What treatment does Dr. Weil recommend for skin tags?

As an alternative to having skin tags removed by a dermatologist, Dr. Weil suggests using bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), a small woodland herb that grows in the north central United States and Canada. The red juice from the root is poisonous when taken internally, but used externally has a unique ability to dissolve abnormal growths without damaging normal tissue. You can buy bloodroot in powdered form or as a paste, apply it to the skin tag you want to remove and then cover with a bandage. Be sure to follow package directions carefully. It can burn the skin in some sensitive individuals.

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