Difference between Skin Tags, Warts and Moles

Everyone wants to look their best, that means having clear blemish free skin.  Nothing is worst to someone concerned with their appearance than a skin tag, wart or unsightly mole.  The best way to keep your skin free of these anomalies is to know what they are and what causes them, how to remove them and when to leave well enough alone.

Cutaneous Tags or Cutaneous Papillomas

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A large example of a skin tag

What are skin tags? They are pieces of soft hanging skin that are often given more medical sounding names like cutaneous papilloma or cutaneous tag.  Not to fear, these names are much more ominous than the actual problem.  Generally, they are benign, non cancerous skin tumors which do not create any problem for the person affected, except to create a less than attractive feature on their bodies.  These tags are a problem associated with aging and generally occur after midlife.  The common locations for tags are the eyelids, the armpits, under the breasts, the groin, the upper chest and the neck.  You may have taken note of the fact that all these locations are areas where skin rubs against skin, which is thought to be the cause of tags, the irritation of skin against skin.

Who is Susceptible to Developing Tags?

If left untreated they may fall off on their own or they may persist.  They range in size from 2 millimeters to 5 centimeters.  Because they appear to be caused by the friction of skin rubbing against skin, they are more common in overweight people and people with type 2 diabetes who tend to be overweight.  Tags are also associated with pregnancy.  Pregnant women may develop them because of their hormone secretions.  A collagen fibre in the skin bonding, which is a result of illegal steroid use, is yet another cause of these skin anomalies. The human papilloma virus (HPV) has also been linked to the formation of tags.

Removing Skin Tags

  • Cauterization
  • Cryosurgery
  • Ligation
  • Excision

Most people don’t want skin tags to remain on their bodies until they fall off, so they seek out safe ways to remove them, especially if it is visible to others.  Common ways to remove these harmless blemishes is with cauterization, cryosurgery, ligation and excision.  Each procedure will remove the anomaly successfully.  Cauterization uses electrolysis to burn off the tag.  Cryosurgery does the opposite and uses nitrogen to freeze the tag off.  The next option is to cut off the blood supply of the tag through ligation and finally, excision is an alternative that is simply cutting the tag off using a scalpel.  Any removal procedure should be conducted by a medical professional, except if using an over-the-counter medication to remove any tag other than an eyelid skin tag.  Only use an ophthalmologist to remove eyelid tags for the safety of your vision.

What are Warts?

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A single example of a wart

You may be wondering what is the difference between skin tags and warts?  Both the skin tag and the wart have one thing in common.  The HPV virus can cause both.  The major difference is found in the appearance of the skin anomaly, its location and its communicable nature.  Warts can be flat if located on the feet and may present with a small seed like center on other body parts such as the hands and fingers.  The other main difference is the number of anomalies.  Warts can be numerous on the same body (sometimes as many as 100 warts can exist on the same person), while tags normally appear singularly. The other main difference between tags and warts is the contagious nature of the wart.  Warts can be transferred to other parts of the body and rarely from one person to another.  Tags cannot affect any other area of the body by proximity nor can they ever be communicated to others.

Wart Removal

Doctors rarely recommend wart removal except in extreme cases with very painful warts or rapidly spreading warts. Warts can be removed by one of several methods.  The same methods used to eliminate tags of skin can be utilized to remove warts, plus the addition of two chemical solutions: salicylic acid and cantharidin.  Salicylic acid is often used on children at home and cantharidin, a blistering agent is used only by doctors during in-office procedures.

What are Moles?

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Two moles on the back of a neck

Another common skin anomaly is the mole.  What are moles? Moles are generally small raised areas of skin composed of a higher concentration of melanin than the surrounding skin, which causes it darker appearance.  The color can range from flesh toned, to blue or black.  Most people have several moles over their entire body.  For the most part, they are harmless.  The harmless ones are removed only for cosmetic reasons.  The rare moles that are a symptom of a malignant melanoma (one in one million) are often related to sunburn.  You should be concerned about moles when you notice changes in its size, its borders, its shape, color or surface appearance and/or it begins to itch, hurt, bleed or swell.

Any skin anomaly or blemish is often disheartening.  Instead of being overwhelmed or depressed, get educated about its meaning.  It may point out some health changes you should be making to protect your overall health. A good example is the tag which is often formed because of obesity and diabetes.   If you needed a visual reminder that you had a health issue that you needed to address, the skin tag tells you you’re overweight or have unbalanced blood sugar problem.  It may simply mean your body’s changing.  Whatever the final decree, get knowledgeable, get medical help and keep moving, life is filled with challenges; some that need to be addressed and some that don’t.

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