Skin tags are small, harmless skin growths that may appear loose and movable, and might even be mistaken for peeling skin. No treatment is required for skin tags, but if a person finds them irritating, they can be removed.
Skin tags, also called achrocordons or soft fibromas are uncommon near the vagina, though they can develop anywhere.
Some vaginal growths that look like skin tags may actually be genital warts, so it is important to get a proper diagnosis.
Doctors are uncertain what causes skin tags, although they appear to run in families. They contain blood vessels and are made of loose fibers of collagen (protein that helps make up the skin).
Skin tags are usually relatively small and can resemble moles, warts, or a piece of skin that is hanging loose. They may be flesh-colored or slightly lighter or darker than the surrounding skin.
Skin tags are benign. However, there are some forms of cancer can look like skin tags. Moles that resemble skin tags may also turn cancerous, so a person should not assume that a new or rapidly growing bump is a skin tag.
Skin tags do not cause symptoms and should not be painful. However, they can get caught on clothing or be scraped when shaving or rubbing the skin. This may pull them off, rip them, or cause skin infections. Anyone with a painful or bleeding skin tag should see a doctor.
Causes of vaginal skin tags
In some cases, skin tags are not a sign of any underlying skin disease. According to some research, human papillomavirus (HPV) may get more skin tags than others. The type of HPV linked to skin tags is a lower-risk form of the virus than the type linked to cancer.
Other risk factors for skin tags include:
- Being obese or overweight
- diabetesand insulin resistance
Skin tags are more common in areas where the skin is folded, dry, or exposed to a lot of friction. These areas include the underarms and areas that are frequently rubbed by clothing.
Skin tags do not grow inside the vagina, but they may grow near the vagina. Skin tags can grow on or around the vulva. They may also appear near the vulva on the inside of the thighs. Friction from underwear or other clothing can irritate skin tags in this area, and may even be a risk factor for developing them. Researchers are unsure why some people get skin tags and others don’t.
Dermatologists can usually diagnose skin tags with a quick visual examination. When skin tags look unusual such as when they are very large or dark, it may be necessary to take a sample to test in a lab.
A doctor may also test for HPV, especially if there is a large group of skin tags near the genitals.
Differentiating vaginal skin tags from genital warts
Growths that look like skin tags on the genitals may in fact be genital warts. Genital warts are caused by the HPV virus.
Some forms of HPV can increase a person’s risk of cancer, so a doctor may test the warts to determine the type.
Most genital warts are caused by a strain of HPV that does not cause cancer. However, other strains of HPV are connected to cervical, throat, and other cancers, so proper diagnosis of the type of HPV is vital.
Skin tags look different from genital warts. A skin growth is probably a skin tag if:
- it is in an area where the skin folds
- it is loose and stalk-like
- it is located in an area of dry skin, not in or around the vagina
- it is not painful or itchy
- there are only one or two growths together
A growth could be a genital wart or another condition if:
- it causes itching, pain, or bleeding
- the growth is flat and round
- there are many skin growths in clusters
- the growth is in or around the vagina or anus
READ ALSO: What Causes Pimple to Appear on the Penis?
How to get rid of them
It may be risky to remove skin tags at home because it can lead to infections. So, it is vital to see a doctor before removing skin tags.
In rare cases, growths that look like skin tags may be a sign of another condition, including cancer. Removing the growth will not get rid of any causal conditions, so it is essential to see a doctor for proper diagnosis.
Even if the growth is a skin tag, home removal is dangerous. Cutting or pulling a skin tag may not remove the whole thing. It may become infected and irritated. A severe skin infection can cause scarring or spread to other parts of the body.
Safely removing a skin tag near the vagina is even more dangerous, since the skin tag can be difficult to see and will be surrounded by sensitive tissues.
Doctors can easily and safely remove skin tags. One option is to freeze the tag off with liquid nitrogen. A doctor may also inject a numbing solution into the skin and cut the skin tag with scissors or a scalpel. These procedures are not painful but the skin may feel tender temporarily and may take some days to heal completely.