Don't ignore a mole that's changing. If you don't like the prospect of having surgery, you might be tempted to let your mole be and forget about it. That's usually fine, unless you notice that the mole has changed over time. A changing mole can be a sign of the presence of cancer cells, so you should have any mole checked out by your doctor. Use the ABCDE guide to examine your mole. If you notice the following, be sure to make an appointment with a doctor:
"If the skin tags are a little bigger or they have more of a thicker stalk at the bottom, then I like to just do a miniature injection of lidocaine to numb the skin and just snip them right off with some very sharp sterile scissors. It only takes a second to do," says Geraghty. "Even with that method I usually do a little bit of cautery after to burn the base because these skin tags have their own blood vessel supply. Burning the base also puts a little scab on it."
I have them. You might have them, too. In fact, according to a study published in the journal Dermotologica — the only one that provides hard numbers on the subject — 46 percent of 750 randomly selected people studied had them. But I was in my early twenties, and I had no idea what was going on. All I knew was that over the course of several months, a few tiny bumps had appeared — on my genitals, mostly in the fold between my thigh and pubic area. From what I could tell, they were skin-colored. They were not moles. Clearly, I had a sexually transmitted disease (STD). I thought they were warts. I Googled, and then I dearly wished I hadn’t.
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“My preferred method is snip excision (cutting off the skin tag base with sterile surgical scissors) and cautery of the base to help stop bleeding and reduces the chance of regrowth,” says Dr Yip. “This method allows multiple skin tags to be removed in the one session and is usually scarless. Extensive treatment may need local anaesthetic. Other methods used by dermatologists include cryotherapy (freezing), surgical excision and ablative laser.”
I went through the stages of grief. First, I lived in denial. Then I got angry. How could this have happened to me? I tried bargaining. "I will never sleep with anyone ever again if I just wake up and these things are gone." Then I slid into depression. I actually would never sleep with anyone again because who would want to sleep with someone, I thought, who had an STD? Never mind that even chronic STDs are manageable and treatable, and shouldn’t be stigmatized. I was raised to think these things didn’t happen to nice girls.
Let the doctor cut off your tag's blood supply. With this method, called ligation, your doctor will apply a small band to the base of the tag. This will cut off the blood supply to the upper portion of the tag and cause it to die and fall off your skin. The process can take up to a few days and, depending on the size and location of the tag, may be a bit more painful.
More than half if not all of the general population has been reported to have skin tags at some time in their lives. Although tags are generally acquired (not present at birth) and may occur in anyone, more often they arise in adulthood. They are much more common in middle age, and they tend to increase in prevalence up to age 60. Children and toddlers may also develop skin tags, particularly in the underarm and neck areas. Skin tags are more common in overweight people.
There are no currently medically approved creams for the removal of skin tags. Skin tags are typically removed by physical methods like cutting off or tying off with dental floss. It is not advisable to use unapproved products like Dermasil, wart removers, tea tree oil, nail polish, toothpaste, or hair-removal creams like Neet or Nair. Trial uses of unapproved creams may cause irritation and possible secondary complications.
After-care is vital to achieve excellent outcomes. Dr. Lam does not charge extra for this care but believes it is important for you to return several times throughout the year to ensure proper healing. It may be only 1 to 2 times but typically 4 to 6 times over a year about every 1 to 2 months depending on how the wound heals. Dr. Lam uses KTP laser (no downtime) to manage any raised or red scars and injectable scar dissolvers also as needed. He may also further refine the incision with dermabrasion or micro silicone injections to ultimately finesse the result, again only as needed and without charge.
Depending on where your skin tags are located, you might not choose any skin tag treatment — out of sight can lead to out of mind. However, you might want to seek skin tag treatment for cosmetic reasons if, for instance, they are on your eyelids and detract from your appearance. Another reason to have a skin tag removed is if it is on an area that gets a lot of friction, even just from wearing clothes, causing irritation and bleeding.
My skin tags, of course — like the skin tags of millions of people — were fine. They didn’t irritate or bother me, though some doctors mentioned them getting twisted in necklace or irritated by rubbing on clothing. When that happens, or for cosmetic reasons, skin tags are easily removed. “There are several methods of removal — clip them with sharp scissors; freeze them with liquid nitrogen; or burn them off with heat,” meaning cauterize them, Dr. Besser says. (All of this should be performed by a medical professional, not at home.)
Then, your doctor will clean the surface of your skin, usually with an alcohol pad, and inject the area with local anesthesia like lidocaine, Dr. Lipoff says. “This should be the only part with any discomfort,” he adds. “There may be a pinch and a burn.” After that, the anesthesia should kick in, and your mole plus the surrounding area should be nice and numb.
Dysplastic nevi are moles that are generally larger than average (larger than a pencil eraser) and irregular in shape. They tend to have uneven color with dark brown centers and lighter, uneven edges. These nevi are somewhat more likely to become melanoma. In fact, people who have 10 or more dysplastic nevi have a 12 times higher chance of developing melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer. Any changes in a mole should be checked by a dermatologist to evaluate for skin cancer.
Susan Besser, MD, a family medicine specialist with Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, says that if skin tags “get large, change color, or become infected or ulcerated, you need to see your doctor. In those cases, it may not be a simple skin tag and further evaluation is needed.” By and large, Todd Minars, MD, of MINARS Dermatology in Hollywood, Florida, states, “Skin tags are harmless. If they do not bother you, then there is no need to treat them.”