Skin tags are soft skin growths that look like deflated balloons formed on areas with skinfold.
Therefore, they can appear in the genital area and cause discomfort during intercourse.
Almost 50 to 60% of adults can develop skin tags. However, there are people with a higher probability of having them.
Skin tags are also known as acrochordons; these benign skin growths rarely lead to severe conditions. Nevertheless, genital skin tags can be confused for genital warts.
This confusion can lead to undiagnosed diseases.
It is critical to identify what is growing on your skin.
Understanding what genital skin tags are can help you ease that anxiety or acquire prompt treatment for any possible infection.
Skin Tags on Private Parts – Causes, Symptoms & How to Get Rid of Them
What are Genital Skin Tags?
Genital skin tags are soft tissue or small skin-colored growths that develop on the skinfold of the genital area. Medically known as acrochordons, skin tags commonly occur on the neck, eyelids, groin, or genitalia.
They are brown, oval growths attached to a fleshy stalk.
Skin tags can vary from 2-5 mm to several centimeters. Some skin tags can have a smooth surface, while others have a bumpy texture.
A skin tag can protrude from the surface of the skin on fleshy stalks. It can be flesh-colored, orange, brown, or dark grey.
They can also contain blood vessels and look like a mole, wart, or a piece of skin hanging.
It is estimated to develop in almost half of adults, which affects men and women equally.
Skin tags are not malignant and cannot be cancerous.
They are benign and harmless skin growths. Skin tags can change from flesh-colored to a lighter or darker shade, but this typically isn’t a cause of concern.
Skin tags develop more when dry skin rubs against each other or on clothes. However, they can still form on the penis, labia, and other mucosal areas.
Vaginal skin tags occur less because of the moist nature of the vagina.
They can develop rapidly but seldom change over time. Skin tags stop growing after the earliest stage of development.
However, it is possible for more skin tags to appear in the same area over time. Some people can have more than 3 skin tags at a time or even 10 or more.
Skin tags have various characteristics, which are:
- Small skin tags look like furrowed papules the size of 1 to 2 mm in width and height.
- Medium-sized skin tags are solo or multiple filiform between 5 mm long to 2 mm wide.
- Large-sized skin tags are pedunculated lesions that have a baglike appearance. They can also show up as soft fibromas. These skin tags are generally located on the lower part of the body, such as the groin or near the genitals.
- Giant skin tags can also appear around the penis or vagina, producing significant discomfort.
Difference Between Genital Skin Tags and Genital Warts
Genital warts and skin tags both resemble small bumps on the skin. These two skin conditions have similar attributes, which may make identification harder.
However, there are apparent differences between them to recognize genital warts and skin tags.
It can be simple to distinguish skin tags from warts if you know their characteristics.
Genital warts are usually flesh-colored, brown, or pink. They can have flat or bumpy textures that sit flush against the skin.
Moreover, warts can crop up and disappear over time. Clusters will form several warts together and are described as visually similar to a cauliflower.
Unlike genital warts, skin tags are connected to the skin by a thin stalk. Moreover, when more than one skin tag exists, they are separated by normal skin and are widespread.
Genital warts are slow-growing lesions and take weeks to months to appear after being infected.
A genital wart is not cancerous but can be a sign of an infection or virus. Human papillomavirus (HPV) 4 is an example of a sexually transmitted disease.
It causes genital warts around the groin and genital skin lesions that may also resemble skin tags.
However, the human papillomavirus is rarely associated with a skin tag.
Unlike skin tags, a genital wart and genital HPV infection are contagious.
Genital warts are moist bumps that appear on the tip of the penis, while genital skin tags can appear on any part of the penis.
It may grow more prominent over time and spread to other parts of the surrounding skin through scratching.
A skin tag is not typically found on the genitals, such as the vagina.
Nevertheless, there are other types of benign polyps or soft fibromas that occur on the vagina, mouth, and anal skin.
In rare cases, a skin growth that looks like a skin tag may be a sign of a cancerous tumor. Diagnosis would be the best way in identifying an underlying disease.
A skin tag doesn’t usually cause any symptoms. In unusual cases, some symptoms will include:
- Pain or irritation from friction
- Discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse
- Soreness or bleeding from being aggravated
- Blood clot beneath the skin tag caused by being twisted
A skin tag on the genitals is not painful unless force is applied to it or it becomes irritated. Large skin tags usually develop on the genitals more often.
They look like deflated balloons and can easily get snagged on clothing and interfere with sexual activity.
Fortunately, a skin tag is not contagious and cannot be transmitted through sexual contact.
The exact cause of skin tags is unclear, but there are several theories. A skin tag is more likely to occur on skin folds.
The genital or groin area has loose skin that creates the opportunity for skin tags to grow.
However, different factors may also contribute to the formation of skin tags.
Risk factors for developing a genital skin tag are:
- Friction can cause skin tags to develop from skin rubbing against each other or on fabric. Frequent rubbing of tight clothing or underwear can irritate the genital area and cause skin growth to appear.
- Pregnancy can change hormonal levels in women. During this period, the risks of having a skin tag are higher. On the other hand, genital warts grow faster during pregnancy.
- Obesity can increase the risk of developing skin tags. Overweight people have a larger surface area and skin friction. It creates more opportunities for skin growth to develop.
- Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance can cause an individual to develop a skin tag. A skin tag can be a cutaneous sign of having metabolic syndrome.
- Age can influence the risks of getting a skin tag because of the skin’s loss of elastic tissue or moisture. It is more common in 60 years and older individuals. Nevertheless, it can develop as early as in your 20s.
- Genetics or having a family history of skin tags may increase the probability of other family members developing a skin tag.
- Birt-Hogg-Dube Syndrome is a disease characterized by having multiple skin tags.
How to Treat Genital Skin Tags?
Skin tags are benign growths, and they are harmless. Removing skin tags is not required, but they can be removed for cosmetic purposes.
Most people do not need treatment for skin tag removal.
However, if you experience the following, you can consult a dermatologist for medical treatment.
- The skin tag is 2 cm or larger
- Bleeding, inflamed, firm, and painful skin tag
- The skin tag is located in an uncomfortable location
- A skin tag that suddenly changes in shape, size, or color.
If you notice anything out of the ordinary in your genital area, consult your doctor immediately to provide medical advice.
A proper diagnosis is critical before starting any treatment. Your doctor will ask you if you have a family history of skin tags, sexual activity, and current medical conditions.
A blood test, biopsy, and physical examination may be recommended. Other causes of skin growth may resemble skin tags, including sexually transmitted diseases and cancer.
At-home treatment or attempting to remove a skin tag on your own is risky. Using nail polish, tea tree oil, or toothpaste to remove skin tags is not advisable.
Skin tag removal should be done by a medical professional. The skin’s surface is sensitive, and skin tags may cause infection, pain, and scarring if not removed properly.
Procedures to remove skin tags include:
- Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the skin tag. A blister may form after treatment, but scarring is rare.
- Excision uses a scalpel or surgical scissors to cut off the blood supply and the stalk. Local anesthesia will be given to you prior to the procedure.
- Cauterization uses an electric current to burn off the skin tag.
After removing the lesion or skin tag, the wound usually heals on its own. Doctors often prefer radio cautery among the procedures due to ease of use and precision.
Nevertheless, skin tag removal has low risks.
It is crucial to follow the proper instructions on taking care of the area of skin tag removal. Infection and excessive bleeding should be avoided until the wound heals.
However, even with treatment, new skin tags may still appear around the area or other parts of the body.
Any growth on the skin can cause concern, but a genital skin tag can be mistaken as a contagious disease.
The possibility of a genital skin tag interfering with your sex life can be uncomfortable.
More importantly, making sure that it is not a sexually transmitted infection is a priority. It is critical to ask your doctor to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment for your condition.
Once you have been diagnosed and treated, it does not prevent future skin tags from forming again.
Preventing future skin tags by losing weight, eating a healthy diet, avoiding tight clothing, and regular exercise should be practiced.
Since diabetes and obesity are risk factors for developing skin tags, living a healthier lifestyle will benefit you wholly.
Proper moisturizing and cleaning around dry skin folds will also reduce any irritation.
Skin tags are harmless and easy to treat.
Identifying it and properly inquiring for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment are your first steps in dealing with genital skin tags.