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Skin Tags and Cysts: When You Should Worry

They’re usually harmless, but may need treatment

You may be wondering about that little outgrowth of skin that popped up on your otherwise smooth skin surface. Most of the time, a skin tag or cyst is nothing more than unsightly, and usually not painful or bothersome.

But sometimes, there might be more to these common skin flaws, and it’s important to know when to have a doctor take a look.

“If it’s truly a skin tag or a cyst, then it’s of no concern,” says dermatologist Pamela Ng, MD. “But if it’s bleeding or painful, that’s a reason to come in.”

Common skin tags

A skin tag is a narrow stalk of skin that bulges at the end. They are benign flesh-colored growths that usually develop in areas of the skin that rub together, such as the neck, armpit, and groin.

Although less common in children, they can occur in any age group and any race.

“They don’t discriminate — they affect people of all ages and body types and can occur anywhere, including the face,” says Dr. Ng.

Most of the time, skin tags are just unsightly or annoying but not a health issue. “However, when skin tags are twisted, irritated, or bleeding, this might be a good reason to seek medical attention,” Dr. Ng says.

Skin cysts

Skin cysts — called epidermoid cysts — are small sacs under the skin that fill with keratin and can develop anywhere. They typically appear as flesh-colored nodules underneath the skin. They can occur in various parts of the body, including the scalp. 

“If someone suddenly develops a new growth underneath the skin, I recommend getting this checked out by a doctor,” Dr. Ng says.

Chances are, it may be a benign cyst but there are various tumors and even malignant ones that can occur as lumps underneath the skin. 

Dr. Ng says it is best to have it evaluated by a physician if you are not sure what it is. Dr. Ng usually only treats skin tags and cysts if they are painful, bleeding or bothersome to a patient.

Treating skin tags

To treat skin tags, Dr. Ng prefers to numb the area and snip off the tag. “I like the method of snipping best because it’s clean and the skin tags are gone by the time the patient leaves,” she says. 

Another possible treatment is freezing, which will cause the tag to fall off after about 10-14 days, she says. However, freezing can cause greater inflammation to the surrounding skin.

A third option is to perform electrodessication, which is a surgical method of drying out tissue by touching it with a needle-like electrode that passes electric current into the tissue.

One thing to keep in mind, Dr. Ng says, is that skin tag removal is considered “cosmetic” by most insurance companies and usually is not covered.

Treating cysts

These are benign and often times, no treatment is necessary. But if a cyst becomes inflamed, infected, or painful, these are good reasons to see your doctor.

Cysts can be injected with steroids, which are sometimes mixed with an antibiotic.  “I prefer this because it can decrease the swelling and pain without creating a scar or wound.” Dr. Ng says.

Sometimes, cysts have to be opened up and drained. This will leave a scar and the cyst can come back. Finally, cysts can be excised but the patient will be trading a bump for a scar as well. 

Don’t try this at home

It can be tempting to try squeezing a cyst or slicing off a skin tag. Over-the-counter compounds claim to remove skin tags, and YouTube videos claim to demonstrate methods to treat both at home.

But Dr. Ng warns against such do-it-yourself treatment of these skin conditions, which can cause bleeding and infection.

“Trying to take care of it on your own means you’re self-diagnosing,” she says. “You might be treating something inappropriate, like a skin cancer or a mole. Let a doctor diagnose it before you try anything at home,” she adds.

Tags: cysts, dermatologist, dermatology, skin care, skin tags, warts
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  • reedjrod

    LEMON JUICE……..Applied daily, a couple times!!! works great! Even removes warts!!!

  • Anonymous

    Tie a piece of thread or unused dental floss ard the skin tag tightly. It will cut off the blood supply and in a day it will fall off.

    • Kris Vandenheuvel

      I’ve done that. It works.

  • huera

    Im goin to try these two home remedies…i found something to be very effective salycic acid ..but it burns

    • Pamala Vela

      Use peroxide or betadine instead. Lemon juice does not work BTW.

  • REGINA

    Put a small piece of silver colored duct tape over the lesion. Make sure it sticks tightly. In a week or so, remove the tape. The lesion ought to be gone, stuck to the tape. If there is some skin tag left, just scrape it with your fingernail. If there is still some left, repeat the process. This works better for me than any other treatment.

  • johnBoneage

    -Speaking of skin tags and cysts… When is Congress supposed to be coming back from their 4th 10-day vacation since the end of December to actually pass more than one piece of legislation this year?

    Anybody know?

    • hfp

      If people vote to oust the Dems in Nov maybe this country will have a chance to dump Obama’s followers and get back on the right path.

      • RED

        one can only dream, but hey, spreading the word falls on some def ears , dont it? sad but true! ok, didnt mean to rain on your parade, lets stay country strong!!!

    • Ron Quandt

      Actually, speaking of Congress; They are more of a Cancer on society than a skin tag

      • Qwtaldy2

        They are definitely more lethal than any disease I know of. No one seems to know how to eliminate this Malignancy. It’s a parasite and self serving.

        • Karen

          Term limits

        • Luz

          I do. Plainly – STOP VOTING! If everyone stopped voting – and I mean EVERYONE – no one can win anything. NO VOTES, NO WIN!

    • Cabinet lady

      Bahahahahaha That is hilarious

    • Vanessa

      Hahaha! That’s hysterical!

  • http://www.london-dermatology-clinic.com/ Tyler Thonon

    Great information. Skin tags and cysts are generally very common skin disorder affecting many people around the world. Sometimes such skin disorders can be very painful and discomfort. A dermatologist can suggest you some effective skin tag and cysts removal treatments.

    • Denise Cater

      The dermatologists I’ve seen always say either it’s something they must treat, or it has to be left alone. I have yet to see one suggest any at-home treatment.

      • Dr. Phil

        Well of course. If you treat it at home they don’t make any money silly

  • always works

    PABA will solve the skin tag problem-a B vit you may be deficient in

  • tina

    I recently found one on my husband but it’s not flesh color. It looks like a skin tag but darker. I suggested he see my dermatologist but he hasn’t yet. What do you think?

    • Big Love

      The article says they can be caused in areas where skin rubs together. Ask if he’s been rubbing with someone of a darker skin color

    • kaynekartrashian

      It’s cancer. Definitely cancer. Get him to a doctor immediately. I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV.

    • Denise Cater

      Tina, whenever I get one that’s dark, it is dying and about to fall off on its own. If your husband’s skin tag is still there, and dark, then have a doctor check it out. Better to be safe and make sure when it doesn’t look normal.

  • kitty

    u got to get out and vote, republican across the board, put the power back in the peoples hands.

  • Mike

    I have so many I was once sleeping on my couch and when I woke my grandchildren touching them and were giving them names.

    • Kathryn Kski

      OMG, that is toooooo funny!!!

    • Heather

      Okay, this is by far the funniest thing I’ve heard all day, maybe even all week. I’m sorry you have so many, but your story really cracked me up. Thanks for sharing!

  • Pamala Vela

    My husband has been getting skin tags for about 20 years. I take them off myself – the doctor showed me how. I take a sharp pair of surgical scissors, soak the area in betadine first and then snip it off. It never bleeds and he has never had an infection.

    • kaynekartrashian

      I did this with my ding d o n g. It worked great!

  • anonymous

    Tag away does work. It takes time but it kills the lil bastards pretty effectively.

  • Ld

    Tumors of Merkel cell carcinoma, arare and deadly skin cancer, are often misdiagnosed as cysts. They are NOT painful. To be safe, get any cyst biopsies if possible.

    • Mongoose218

      They’re all too concerned with saving a little money to get them checked out by a physician (a dermatologist in this case)….the entire article said “don’t do this at home, needs to be diagnosed FIRST” and yet the first post is about how to remove these at home! Stupid people!

  • Melissa Toye

    This thread is a riot! Especially the comments about the government.

    Funny story about a skin tag on my neck. My son (5) sings to me “Mom, I see your nipple!” Time to get that tag removed!

  • Anonynmous

    I had my tags looked at by a doc, so I know they are just cosmetic. I get a LOT of them. To the point it’s embarrassing to take off my shirt at the beach. My solution (to avoid paying out of pocket) is to sterilize a set of nail clippers, the ones that resemble a pair of pliers, and then pinch off the tags with the clipper. I found that bleeds less and more importantly hurts a lot less than cutting it with a scissor.