Genital Skin Tag vs. HPV Warts: FAQs
Dr. Angel Rivera
Warts and skin tags are two of the most common skin conditions that people suffer from. And, if you notice a growth on your genital area, you are likely to start freaking out and imagining worst-case scenarios before you know what you are dealing with. According to the New York State Department of Health, the HPV virus is one of the most common in the United States and if left untreated it can lead to all sorts of severe complications like cervical cancer.
While warts and skin tags can be similar in appearance, there are important differences that distinguish the two and, in this article, we will be exploring the most frequently asked questions surrounding genital skin tags and HPV warts.
Simply put, yes. Both genital warts and skin tags are small fleshy bumps that appear on the skin in or around the groin. Skin tags differ from genital warts in that instead of being a collection of raised bumps that sit on the surface of the skin, they grow outwards and they are attached to the skin via a narrow stalk.
Skin tags are not contagious, regardless of where they are on your body. This is because they appear as a result of friction and have no connection to an underlying condition like an HPV infection. One of the main ways that genital warts are transmitted is through skin contact with an infected partner and this is unfortunately how many people discover that their genital skin tags are actually HPV warts. If you are certain that your growths are skin tags and not HPV warts, then no further action needs to be taken.
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While skin tags can appear at any point during the course of your life, they are most likely seen in children or the elderly. If you have had unprotected sexual intercourse or genital contact with a new partner and you notice that bumps have suddenly appeared, then you need to see a physician to have them checked out.
There is only one common symptom of papilloma virus HPV orgenital warts and these are the growths themselves. This means that by the time you have noticed them on your skin, you will already be infected. Unlike skin tags, genital warts will often appear inside your genitals or around your anus, which is a firm indication that you need to consult your physician to get a proper diagnosis. If you are able to spot and treat HPV warts early on, then this will prevent them from spreading.
What to Look Out For
Unlike common skin tags, HPV warts can appear in a range of different shapes and sizes. Common symptoms of HPV warts include:
- Minute skin-colored bumps or lesions that tend to grow in clusters forming a cauliflower shape.
- Often, people will only have one or two HPV warts. And when they are found directly inside the genital area, they have a tendency to be soft-to-the-touch and they will either be raised or flat.
- Genital warts favor moist areas. For example, in or around the vagina or anus and, in some cases, the groin. Like skin tags, HPV warts do not usually cause discomfort of pain, but they can be itchy and bleed when scratched.
A useful way to distinguish HPV warts from skin tags is to monitor your genital area. If you have a genital skin tag, then you will notice it gradually forming. HPV warts will appear overnight, as the virus can lay dormant for weeks or even months.
It is also important to remember that bumps on the genitals aren’t just limited to skin tags or HPV warts, which is why if you notice something is up down there, you should book in to see your doctor right away.
Because HPV warts are a result of a transmitted infection, they are not removed in the same way as skin tags. If you have a genital skin tag, then a skin specialist will remove it using a scalpel or freezing methods (cryotherapy). To treat the genital HPV infection, you will likely be given a course of antibiotics to take in order to combat the infection and stop it from spreading, as well as a topical cream to soothe and reduce their appearance.
Can I Remove Genital Skin Tags or HPV Warts at Home?
There are certain methods that claim to work in order to remove both skin tags and genital warts. But most of these methods are not backed up by science and are usually just old wives’ tales. Apple cider vinegar is thought to work well thanks to its antibacterial properties, but if you have growths inside your vagina then we definitely would not recommend trying to treat them using vinegar!
How Do I Reduce the Risk of Developing Genital Skin Tags or Warts?
Unfortunately, there is no way of preventing skin tags appearing on your genitals. This is largely because they are not actually caused by anything other than friction and perhaps a degree of bad luck. HPV warts, however, are a different kettle of fish.
Anyone who is sexually active can come into contact with this common virus. You can reduce the risk of infection as follows:
- Abstinence (completely abstaining from sexual contact with anyone, including oral sex).
- Only having sex with one person exclusively. Those with a multitude of sexual partners are exposing themselves to a higher risk of getting other sexually transmitted infections.
- If you notice suspicious lumps or bumps on your partner’s genital area, then you should encourage them to abstain from engaging in sexual activity until they have had their warts treated or removed. If someone suspects that they are a carrier of HPV, they should take the initiative to avoid transmitting it on to someone else.
- When used correctly, condoms can prevent HPV warts from spreading—but this is only applicable to the areas that are completely covered by the condom. It is not a 100% guaranteed way of protecting yourself from HPV warts unless the warts are inside the vagina or on the penis shaft or head.
- Vaccines are available to protect against the HPV virus and they are recommended for both children and young adults.
When a person has HPV, the risk of re-infection with the same type of virus is not likely. This is thought to be due to the immune system’s response to the virus. However, as there are different types of HPV, it is entirely possible to become infected with a new strain from a different partner. This is why it is imperative that both partners understand the whole picture when it comes to HPV, as it will allow both people to make informed decisions that are based on facts and not on fears.
I Am Worried I Have HPV Warts: Can I Treat them with an Over-the-Counter Solution?
There are over the counter remedies available to purchase online or in a drug store. Their efficacy, however, is questionable. If you think you have HPV, then it is really important to visit your physician and while many people feel embarrassed about discussing issues relating to their genitalia, a professional is going to be the only person who will be able to offer you an effective and efficient method of removing HPV warts. If you decide not to take action and ignore your symptoms, then you will be carrying the virus indefinitely.
Do Skin Tags and HPV Warts Go Away on Their Own?
Skin tags can have a tendency to resolve themselves by falling off naturally. HPV, however, does not. Always remember that the actual warts are just a symptomatic manifestation of a virus. So, while the growths might go away on their own, you will still be carrying a virus that can lead to further complications.
If we are being totally honest, it is unlikely that anyone is going to feel comfortable with having either skin tags or warts on their genital areas. So, regardless of whether or not you have HPV warts, you are most likely going to want to look into having any growths removed. It is also imperative that you never try to treat or remove any growths before seeking a medical opinion. If you are a female who is worried about having HPV warts, then you should be aware that you could request to see a female physician, if it makes you feel more comfortable. Also remember that it is your responsibility to ensure that you do not transmit this sexually transmitted disease to other people, so until a specialist has given you, you should abstain from sexual activity.