A Guide to Anal Skin Tag Removal, Complications, & Recovery Time
Dr. Angel Rivera
People find anal skin tags painful, worrying, and embarrassing. Like many conditions which affect the rectum, this can dissuade people from seeing a doctor for treatment.
You needn’t worry because it’s a common skin condition, and there are proven ways to correct the problem.
This guide contains everything you need to know. We begin by explaining precisely what skin tags are (if you didn’t know, they are harmless).
We delve into the various things which can cause them, and which might have caused yours.
We’ll then explore how doctors remove skin tags on the anus. And finally, we provide information on potential complications and how quickly you can expect to recover.
So, if there is anything you need to know about anal skin tag removal, you will be able to find it below.
What Are Rectal Skin Tags?
Skin tags, no matter where they are found on the body, are a kind of benign tumor. But don’t worry, because they are neither a cause nor a sign of skin cancer (melanoma).
Medically, they are called an acrochordon (plural acrochorda). When this condition develops around the anus, it is no different to when it develops anywhere else, except for it’s more uncomfortable and difficult to self-diagnose.
Skin tags are small, ranging from a fraction of an inch to the size of a grape. The vast majority of them are around the size of a pencil tip.
They are soft and smooth and are almost always the same color as your skin.
This condition can develop in many places around the body. Rectal skin tags, of course, will form around the rectum.
They can appear just inside the anus, or on the outside of the anus. As we will discuss in a moment, this is most likely because of friction in this area.
Because of the places they can appear, they can be mistaken for other conditions. They can be mistaken for piles and anal warts, among other things.
This is a point we will examine in more depth later on.
What Causes Skin Tags on the Rectum?
Many different factors are responsible for acrochordons. It could be any one of the following which is causing yours.
Skin Folds Causing Friction Due to Hemorrhoids
The most common cause of skin tags is friction. Scientists have been able to ascertain that it is the prime cause for one simple reason.
They are typically found in areas around the eyelids, neck, armpits, and around the groin and rectum- in other words, where folds of skin or tight clothing (such as collars and underwear) cause friction.
The precise mechanism by which friction causes skin tags is unclear. Scientists believe it may have something to do with the collagen cells becoming stretched and elongated.
But even though friction seems to be a prime cause, there are still many reasons why you might have developed one, or more than one.
Friction around the rectum can be caused in a number of ways. To start with, the tissue around the anus is looser than that elsewhere on the body.
This means that the area is especially susceptible to this condition when exposed to friction.
Constipation, childbirth and anal intercourse can all cause hemorrhoids, also sometimes called piles.
The stretching, swelling and shrinking of the tissue around the anus due to piles can cause skin tags.
There are many other factors which also play into the formation of skin tags. First among these other reasons are natural hormonal fluctuation.
This is why many women’s first experience with them is during pregnancy. As you no doubt are aware, pregnancy releases a potent hormonal cocktail unlike any other into the body.
One of the side effects of this is increased skin tag growth.
The use of anabolic steroids is another reason why somebody may develop this skin condition.
They are designed to simulate the hormone cortisol, which stops the muscles from becoming inflamed after exercise, allowing the user to exercise more. Among the many side effects of steroid use is skin tag growth.
Obesity, Weight Gain, and Type 2 Diabetes
Underlining the fact that hormonal changes cause this skin condition is that obesity and weight gain lead to acrochordon growth, too.
Both obesity and weight gain cause excess androgen in the body. Androgen is the male equivalent of estrogen, and excess androgen can cause skin tag formation.
Type 2 diabetes can also cause this condition. Again, this is partly due to hormonal changes. As a rule, those with skin tags tend to have higher levels of both cholesterol and blood sugar.
A protein called C-reactive protein is also present in the blood of those with skin tags more commonly than in the blood of those with none. Each of these factors is also linked to diabetes.
Aging is perhaps the second most common factor behind skin tag growth. The prevalence of skin tags is higher among older populations.
So much so that around half of the population will have had at least one by the time they reach fifty.
The reason for this trend is that the skin changes as we get older. The skin becomes thinner, which is why the skin of particularly elderly people- over eighty- looks almost translucent!
Not only that, but the elastin present in the skin begins to break down. This is thought to make the process of skin tag formation ‘easier.’
Genetics is the final cause of skin tags. They seem to be more common in some families than others. And occasionally, they can be present from birth, particularly around the ears.
You may simply be more susceptible to developing this condition than others.
Conditions Mistaken for Anal Skin Tags
Mistaking anal skin tags for other conditions is possible. For instance, they can be mistaken for piles and anal warts.
This is because their location on the body makes them difficult for you to see them. Here are some conditions which appear similar.
- Hypertrophied papillae are small growths which are, strictly speaking, benign tumors. They are also known as fibro-epithelial polyps. They are made from the same tissue as skin tags but have a slightly different shape. You’ll typically find them just inside the anus.
- If you think you have anal Skin Tag Bleeding, you may have hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are swollen veins inside the anus or the rectum. Regular skin tags do not bleed, whereas hemorrhoids commonly do. That being said, if there is a fissure on or around your skin tag, this may cause bleeding.
It is possible for shrunken hemorrhoids to cause skin tags because of excess skin and the friction between skin folds. The two conditions therefore often appear simultaneously.
- Anal warts are growths which you may find outside and around the anus, and just inside, like fibroepithelial polyps. The HPV virus causes these growths. Whereas skin tags are smooth and soft, anal warts are rougher. However, it may still be difficult to tell between the two due to the difficulty of accessing and inspecting them.
These conditions each appear and feel reasonably similar. Not only that, but they often appear with one another.
It is therefore common for patients to be confused as to which condition they have.
If you are unsure which condition you have, you can talk to your doctor and have them diagnose it for you.
They may be able to tell just by looking. If not, they may perform a biopsy, where a small piece of tissue is taken and analyzed.
A Guide to Anal Skin Tag Removal
If you would like to remove your rectal skin tags, you have a number of options available. Surgical methods of removal have advanced in recent years.
You will, therefore, be able to find treatments to suit your budget, your time commitment, or simply your preference.
Below, we explore in a little more detail the potential treatment options available:
The most obvious way of removing acrochordons is to have them cut off through surgery. Your surgeon will be able to remove them, even if they are in an awkward position.
This surgery can remove both the affected skin, as well as any extra loose skin, to prevent recurrence.
This treatment can involve either traditional surgical operation or laser surgery. Laser surgery is an excellent alternative and can tackle moles and other skin conditions as well.
Non-surgical alternatives are a cheap and effective way of treating your condition. These include cryotherapy, which is another word for freezing. This method uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the tissue, which kills it.
Another method is ligation, which is another word for tying off the acrochordons. This stops blood from being able to reach the tissue, which causes it to die over a number of days.
In the next section, we will explore each of these methods in more depth. This will allow you to choose the kind of treatment that is best for you. Afterwards, we will look further into recovery and potential complications.
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How Are Rectal Skin Tags Removed?
Surgical excision is the medical term for simply cutting the skin tag at its base to remove it. If you have a number of skin tags, this is simply done one by one.
The process involves the following steps:
- Before treatment, the area around the skin tag (or each one, if there are multiple) is numbed using a local anesthetic or a topical cream. This stops the procedure from hurting anywhere near as much as it would otherwise.
- Once the area or areas are numbed, the skin tags are just cut off at their base. All that is required to cut the stalk is a quick snip of a pair of surgical scissors. Alternatively, the doctor may use a razor to perform the same task. The outcome is no different either way.
- After the skin tag is removed, the doctor will apply pressure to the area. This stops excess bleeding and assists the blood in clotting around the wound. These scabs should be left where they are, not picked at, to aid the healing process.
SOnce they are removed, they do not grow again from the same stalk. There is no more certain way to treat your condition.
The only problem in the case of anal skin tag removal is the risk of infection. Your doctor will sterilize the area, and you must do the same on a regular basis as healing continues.
Laser treatment is a popular alternative to traditional excision. It is an effective treatment for a variety of skin conditions, acrochordons included.
Here is a brief rundown of what it is, how it is performed, and how it works.
Again, the affected area will be numbed using a numbing agent. This could be local anesthetic or a topical cream.
This method is popular in sensitive areas since the laser will automatically cauterize the wound. This helps to prevent bleeding, and thus the risk of infection.
Laser treatment is more expensive than other methods. It can cost around $100 per tag removed. The skin tag will be immediately removed, and won’t grow back in the same place.
Ultimately, the choice is yours as to whether price or immediate removal is more important to you.
Cryotherapy is the first method in this list which can be safely performed at home. It involves exposing the skin tag to exceptionally cold temperatures, using a chemical such as liquid nitrogen. This may sound dangerous, but it is remarkably safe and is a very popular alternative to visiting a doctor.
- Cryotherapy does not require a numbing agent, unlike other methods, since the cold temperature numbs rather than hurts. It may sting somewhat, but not in the same way as, say, excision.
- Products generally include a pressurized can, which contains the liquid nitrogen. This fluid is applied to an applicator, which is in turn applied to the skin tag. The liquid nitrogen will be around -280 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The cold temperature freezes the tissue, which stops blood from reaching it. This causes the tissue to die fairly quickly. A scab will form over the spot where the applicator touched the skin.
- Over the one or two days after the treatment, you will notice that your skin tag turns purple and then black. This is what happens when tissue runs out of oxygen and begins to die.
Cauterization and electrocauterization destroy the tissue with an exceptionally hot tool. The tip, around as big as a needle tip, can reach temperatures of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. After the area has been numbed, they can individually be burned away.
Ligation, or ‘tying off,’ is where a piece of wire is tied around the skin tag. This will starve the tissue of oxygen. It will, therefore, fall off in a number of days.
Ligation is one of the easiest and most pain-free ways of removing your acrochordons. It does not break the skin.
It does not leave a scar unless you pull the skin tag off before it is ready to fall. You may not even notice when it finally drops off.
How Long Does Recovery Take?
Skin tag removal surgery recovery time is not as long as you might expect. However, recovery depends on the after-care process.
For instance, keeping the area clean (as discussed above) is a must. Allowing the scab to heal of its own accord is a must.
Even so, it does not take long for the skin to recover after treatment, even if it is in a sensitive area like around the anus or the rectum.
Here is a rundown of the recovery times after each form of treatment.
- Rectal skin tag surgery recovery requires the area to be kept clean and free of bacteria. Of course, the area around the rectum will require cleaning and sterilization for this to be the case. If this is not done, recovery may take longer than the week to ten days which is average. Hemorrhoid skin tag surgery recovery can be more complex since hemorrhoids can stretch the skin and split the wound open again. This can make a recovery last even longer since the wound will not be able to close.
- Laser treatment, cryotherapy, and cauterization each leave scabs which must be left in place for two weeks. If you pick the scabs, you re-open the wound. This causes infection to take place. It also increases the chance of scarring.
- Ligation requires the least amount of recovery time. There is no wound or scab which must heal over. The skin tag simply drops off after a week or so, and the skin will have healed beneath it.
Recovery is painful due to the sensitive area and the unfortunate position.
Are There Potential Complications?
So, treatment is possible, but is skin tag removal surgery safe? There is little risk of complications, provided that you follow the instructions provided with your treatment.
If you follow the aftercare instructions, such as keeping the area sterile and take things a bit easier, you should be just fine.
Having your condition treated would be pointless if there was always a complication after skin tag removal.
That’s why each method of treatment is designed not just to be effective, but safe. The following list is an overview of the complications from cutting off skin tag around the rectum.
The risk of scarring depends on your condition. If the tissue is larger, longer, or wider than usual, then there is a greater risk of scarring.
However, if the treatment you receive is precise and careful enough, these scars will fade over time. Given the area, it’s unlikely to be a huge issue.
Anal skin tag bleeding is less likely if you use the right method. If you use scissors to cut off an acrochordon, wherever it is on the body, it will bleed.
This is a pointlessly dangerous way to self-treat your condition when you lack the medical expertise.
The risk of infection depends on two factors:
- The sterilization of the tools you use in the procedure. This problem will usually be managed by your doctor.
- The healing process. Allow the natural scabs to fall off when they are ready, rather than picking at them. That could re-open the wound, potentially leading to scarring and infection. Washing and cleaning the area after treatment is handled by the individual.
Skin tags are not caused by viral infection, but by friction and other factors. They will, therefore, not immediately recur.
And they will not recur quicker or slower dependant on the quality or efficacy of the treatment you use.
New skin tags may, however, appear in a nearby place. If so, they will also need to be removed.
Unfortunately, some people are more prone to this skin condition than others.
Here is a summary of everything that we’ve covered:
What are they? Anal and rectal skin tags are the same as those which appear elsewhere on the body. They are small, soft, benign tumorous growths.
What causes them? ‘Acrochordons’ around the anus and rectum are caused by friction.
This could be the friction of skin folds rubbing against one another. It could also be the result of tight clothing, constipation or anal intercourse.
There are also a number of other factors, such as weight gain and hormonal changes, which may make you more susceptible to them.
What might I confuse them with? This condition can be confused with others such as anal warts or fibroepithelial polyps.
If you are unsure of the precise nature of your condition, we recommend seeing your doctor. They can perform either an inspection or a biopsy.
How can my doctor remove them? They can be removed by a number of means. You can choose between surgical and non-surgical procedures. We have identified excision, laser surgery, cryotherapy, ligation, and cauterization as your possible options. Depending on your circumstances and preferences, you may prefer one method over the others.
How long will it take for me to recover? Recovery depends on the aftercare process. Leave the scar to scab over.
Allow the scab to take as long as it needs to fall off on its own. Keep the area clean at all times, especially before the scab has a chance to form, and after it falls.
What complications can occur? The most common complications are scarring, bleeding and infection.
These three complications can occur because of a lack of proper aftercare. The area will be very tender after the procedure, so you should be prepared for this likelihood.