What Do Skin Tags Look Like? Understanding the Difference Between Skin Tags, Cysts, Lumps, and Bumps
Dr. Angel Rivera
We have all been there at one time or another. You wake up in the morning and you notice a growth on your skin and Murphy’s Law dictates that it will most likely be in a place that you can’t cover up easily. Most of the time, these random growths that appear on the skin out of nowhere are usually nothing more than skin tags that are caused by friction but may still have us thinking about skin cancer. Sometimes, however, there will be certain indicators that these lumps and bumps are something more sinister, in which case, they need to be addressed and dealt with sooner rather than later. In this article, we will be taking an in-depth look at the differences between skin tags, cysts, and other lumps and bumps that may appear on your skin’s surface, so you can figure out if you need to seek professional advice to have the skin tags removed. So, before you rush out to get rid of skin tags, read on.
What Is the Difference Between a Skin Tag and a Cyst?
Skin tags and cysts are usually very similar in appearance and they are nothing more than harmless, unsightly growths or skin folds on the skin often caused skin rubbing. Many people opt to have them removed as they can lead to infection if constantly rubbed in a sensitive area, but this is a question of personal preference. Skin tags and cysts can appear on areas like the eyelids, chest, and sometimes even the genitals and the majority of people get rid of them to avoid feelings of low self-esteem.
Common Skin Tags
A skin tag is comprised of a fleshy bulge and a thin stalk that attaches it to your body. If a skin tag is normal then it will be flesh-colored and usually no bigger than a grain of rice. They are prone to develop in moist areas where friction is present like the armpit, neck,and groin. While skin tags can appear in children who are usually overweight, they more commonly appear in adults. Fortunately, almost everyone will develop skin tags at some point in their life and they usually go unnoticed and can go away on their own.
Skin tags are almost always completely benign and are rarely a sign of melanoma. However, if you notice that your skin tag has a tendency to bleed or become inflamed, then you should take the opportunity to make an appointment with a skin specialist for further evaluation.
While they are similar in surface appearance, cysts differ from skin tags in that they are actually sacs of fluid under the skin. They can appear anywhere in the body and they usually feel squishy in comparison to a common skin tag. If you are one of the thousands of people in the United States who has woken up to find a new growth that appears to be under the skin instead of protruding outward, then you should get checked out by a doctor. Most of the time cysts are completely harmless, but they can be malignant, especially if they cause you pain or discomfort.
Other Lumps and Bumps
We expose our skin to a whole range of allergens on a daily basis. So, it is not surprising when people break out in lumps and bumps as a result of an allergic reaction to something we have ingested or exposed ourselves to. Lumps and bumps can be entirely normal, especially if they only appear to last a few days and are accompanied by a rash or itching. However, they should never be painful to touch, nor should they be a permanent fixture on your body.
Worst Case Scenarios
If you notice lumps and bumps appearing in your intimate areas, you could be avictim of the dreaded HPV virus and you may have broken out in genital warts. Unfortunately, HPV warts share many things in common with skin tagsin that they look extremely similar and they are rarely painful. There is one major factor that differentiates HPV warts from benign lumps and bumps and that is the fact that they will always appear in or around your genitals and anus. They tend to form in clusters and have a cauliflower-like appearance. If you have noticed lumps and bumps on or around your genitals, then you need to seek medical advice immediately as HPV can be highly contagious and can lead to further complications like cervical cancer in females. Apart from the obvious fact that nobody wants to walk around with a load of warts adorning their private parts like Christmas baubles!
How Are Cysts and Skin Tags Treated?
In this day and age, the first thing we do when we feel unwell or notice that something is awry with our bodiesis to jump online and enter our symptoms into a search engine. This usually results in an unnecessary midnight dash to the emergency room because you are now convinced that you have a terminal illness, or you will be presented with myriad home remedies that claim to cure any kind of ailment under the sun—usually via the use of apple cider vinegar! Before we go any further, let’s make one thing crystal clear. If you have noticed any kind of growths appearing on your skin, do not attempt to remove them yourself. Dermatologists have the necessary experience required to know exactly what your new growth is and also how to remove it in the safest way possible.
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Skin tags can be removed by snipping them off at the base after the area is numbed or they can be frozen and fall off on their own after a couple of weeks. Whichever method your dermatologist chooses will be the one that will be the least painful and it will cause minimal irritation of the surrounding healthy skin.
Cysts are slightly more complex to treat as they are technically internal sacs of fluid that may need to be drained or injected with antibiotics to eliminate them—something that you should definitely not attempt at home on your own! Treatment of both cysts and skin tags are considered cosmetic, which is why the majority of health insurance companies will not cover the cost of treatment unless a medical professional has suggested removing them for further tests to be performed.
Can I Use Over-the-Counter Solutions to Treat Lumps and Bumps?
There is no harm in trying natural remedies if you notice lumps and bumps appearing on parts of your body that aren’t sensitive (like eyes or the genital area.) Ultimately, applying tea tree oil or vinegar to a skin tag isn’t going to do it any harm, but it is also not proven to be effective. If you think that your skin tag or bumps are completely normal and you would rather not have them, then, by all means, go ahead and try applying natural topical solutions—but never try to eliminate them via cutting them off or burning them. Cysts should always be checked over by a specialist and as they stem from underneath the skin, never attempt to eliminate them by bursting the sac or trying to extract fluid with a syringe at home.
When Should You Worry about Cysts, Skin Tags or Lumps,and Bumps?
Simply put, if something doesn’t feel or look right. Common causes for concern include:
- Changes in color
- Changes in the border or dimension of your cysts or skin tags
- Clusters of lumps and bumps
- Redness and soreness
- Pain or itching
It is likely that you will have absolutely nothing to worry about, but problems arise when people mistake skin tags for moles, which do have the potential to become cancerous.
As humans, we often discard our intuition when it comes to our health. But the body is actually highly intelligent and when something is not right, our brain will tell us. Unless you are a trained professional, then you should always seek a second opinion. If you feel like something isn’t right with regards to any skin tags, cysts, or lumps and bumps on your skin, then why hesitate to seek medical attention? It is also worth remembering that many doctors are moving away from traditional surgical and chemical treatments and investigating alternative, natural remedies to heal certain conditions, so you should never assume that seeking medical treatment would involve ingesting toxic chemicals. There are plenty of official resources like this one that can help you to get a better understanding of your skin condition and if you need to take action. With medicines and treatment evolving on a continuous basis, there is a solution for almost every problem. If in doubt, they always seek a professional opinion to put your mind at rest.