The Difference Between Skin Tags And Warts

Have you ever experienced having either a skin tag or a wart? To clear things first, the two skin growth conditions are entirely different. People who have these growths tend to be confused because of the similarities in their appearance. 

The reason for the similarities is because they are both benign. This means they are harmless and don’t pose any medical concern as time passes by. However, the issue is that they can be an aesthetic problem that people wanted to correct immediately.

This discussion will differentiate the two skin growths, how do they get to appear on the skin and what can be the effective methods of removal without consulting a doctor. 

Distinguishing a Skin Tag from a Wart

A skin tag is not a form of wart although they can look similar. To distinguish them from each other, you can base your observation on these following factors:

  • Skin tags feel soft and smooth while warts can feel rough. Both can look like cauliflower on a simple glance. Skin tags can grow vertically where its base, the stalk, has the same texture of the skin. Warts are just slight skin growth that can just look flat.
  • Skin tags are caused by a lot of factors like skin surfaces rubbing with friction, obesity or hormones. Warts, on the other hand, are caused by a virus called HPV.
  • Skin tags are non-contagious, whatever happens to them. Warts are the opposite, especially when they are bleeding, where it can spread all over either onto your own body parts or to other person’s skin.
  • Skin tags are likely to appear as you age older while warts can be prevalent at younger ages since the resistance to HPV is not yet fully developed. However, both can normally appear at any time of your lifespan.
  • Skin tags can stay attached for a long time if untreated whereas warts can eventually wither on their own. Fortunately, there are treatments, both surgical and over-the-counter, that are available to eliminate them fast.

These are generally the differences between skin tags and warts based on their occurrence. But, knowing exactly how they appear doesn’t already mean that you can prevent them from sprouting.  

Causes of Skin Tags

Skin Tags, or medically known as acrochordons, have various causes. It may be unclear what the origin of such growth is but there are situations observed by medical professionals where the skin tags appeared.

  1. The most common observed cause is skin contact with friction. It can be skin rubbed against another skin surface of the part of the body or skin rubbing against a rough material like clothing or jewelry. They are commonly found close to one’s eyes, around the area of the neck or in-between the armpits. 
  2. Hormonal fluctuations also cause skin tags to appear. For instance, a hormone named ‘leptin’, at excessive amounts can cause skin tags to form. Another hormone, ‘estrogen’, might also be a cause of the formation of a skin tag.
  3. During pregnancy, hormonal imbalance occurs. This stage can stimulate the production of many hormones such as oxytocin, relaxin, HGC and progesterone. As stated in the previous item, any hormonal fluctuation can cause skin tags to appear. 
  4. It is not that common to everybody, but the usage of anabolic steroid injections can trigger skin tags to appear. The said injections create also hormonal imbalance where the hormone ‘cortisol’ is excessive in amount.
  5. Obesity and weight gain also cause skin tags because of the two main reasons: hormonal fluctuations, due to the increased production of the hormone ‘androgen’, and friction, due to the clothing fabric and the skin is very tightly rubbed against each other.
  6. Another uncommon situation to everybody that causes skin tags is the hormonal imbalance due to having type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. For type 1 diabetes, a link has yet to be found.
  7. The aging can make you vulnerable in having skin tags since the skin might become weaker and thinner. Just slight friction can eventually cause skin growth to occur. The older you get, the more prone you are in having skin tags.
  8. Genetics might also play a role in skin tag formation. There are rare cases in which skin tags appear upon birth. It is also been discovered that people who have genetic conditions, like Down syndrome and acromegaly, are prone to having skin tags.
  9. An ongoing study links the cause of skin tag to HPV. It is unclear but patients having this virus are found to be slightly prone to having skin tags.

Cause of Warts

Only one thing has been found to be the reason for the existence of warts – a viral infection. Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, is said to be the virus that causes wart formations.

This virus invades the body from the host through skin cuts or openings. As the virus enters, it will cause a reaction to the skin cells and later on, a wart will start to form. There are many ways you can catch this virus that can be viewed as normal physical activities. A few of these examples are the following:

  1. The virus can be received from a handshake. Hands are prone to experiencing physical stress where a scrape is definitely normal. Warts commonly appear on the fingers and palms. Through these infected hands, you can definitely spread it easily and unconsciously all over your body. 
  2. The virus can be obtained through sexual contact. Since there is a lot of skin contact, a host can easily infect you through the many openings exposed. 
  3. The virus can spread from the objects a host has touched, granted that it has not undergone cleaning or exposed to intense heat. They can be ordinary public objects that are handheld like a doorknob, towel, computer keyboard or a utensil. 
  4. The virus can get through open sores. It will start infecting directly. Activities like shaving, scratching or biting can easily spread the formation of warts.
  5. The virus can favor one person from the other. Not all immune system of each person is the same. Therefore, there are some people having bodies prone to tolerating the virus and usually have more prevalent wart formations.

The difficult part is warts can appear at any given time the moment you got the virus. It will be challenging to prove if you were infected or not and how long it has been. 

Locations of Warts’ Appearance

As soon as you catch HPV, warts can appear at any time and at any place of your skin. Due to the common interactive activities by humans, most warts appear in common locations where the ‘contact’ took place.

  • Warts that are generally smaller in size, or considerably flat, can appear commonly on the face and also on the legs. 
  • Warts appear most commonly appear on the hands and fingers due to the amount of contact on other people and on public property. These warts are called ‘Palmer warts’ and can easily be transferred through further physical contact.
  • Warts obtained because of sexual contact are commonly called ‘genital warts’. From the name itself, warts appear on the groin area and also on the anus. They appear to be small and look similar to that of a cauliflower’s head. The said skin growth is caused by 2 types or strains of HPV virus: type 11 and type 6. 
  • Warts can also grow at the soles of the feet. Also called ‘plantar warts’, they are caused by other strains of the HPV virus. They can also appear in clusters.

Warts can appear anywhere on the skin, aside from the four common locations. Any opening like a cut, a crack or a scrape can help spread the virus from all over the body or from another person. If you don’t have a strong immune system, then you have to exercise caution by treating you cuts and openings or a thorough sanitization.

Locations of Skin Tags’ Appearance

Skin tags can appear at any part of the skin due to the many causes. But, one thing is for sure: skin surfaces experiencing friction are definitely the most common area for the skin tag to appear. The following skin areas are:

  • Around the area of the upper shoulders and neck, in which shirt collars and even wiping towels can rub the skin
  • Beneath the armpits, wherein the movement of the arms and the presence of the armpit hairs create frictional contact
  • Around the eyelids, where the blinking can cause the skin surfaces to rub each other
  • Underneath the breast area for women
  • Around the area of the groin, where the tight clothing and the folds of skin tend to rub each other
  • Underneath the butt cheeks and nearer to the opening of the anus, where the tight clothing and the folds of skin also tend to rub each other

Because of the occurrence of skin tags on these locations, experts believed that the usual cause of the appearance of skin tags is friction. Skin tags are rarely found on hands and feet due to the rough surface.

Skin tags can appear in locations other than the ones stated. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry since they are harmless, no matter where the location of their growth is. 

Possibility of Warts to Disappear on Its Own

As time goes by, warts can disappear on its own. A general rule of thumb exists for the likelihood of the disappearance of the wart without treatment. It goes like this:

  • One out of three warts will disappear on its own, without treatment, for about ten weeks.
  • Two out of three warts will disappear on its own, without treatment, for about two years.
  • A wart that doesn’t disappear after two years is unlikely to disappear without treatment.

The general rule of thumb can be summed as you have 67 percent of all warts you have acquired to disappear on its own. However, the problem is not warts that still exist. It is that as warts disappeared on its own, another will appear possibly on another part of the body. The virus is still in your system despite experiencing the disappearance of warts.

The disappearance is proof of your working immune system. As the virus is spreading on your body, your immune system continues to fight it, hence the disappearance of some warts over a course of ten weeks or two years.

As you go older, the immune system might be tolerating the long, inhabited virus. The system might be able to recognize the virus patterns so, instead of fighting, containment was applied as evidence of some warts not disappearing at all. 

Possibility of Skin Tags to Disappear on Its Own

Though other skin growths tend to disappear in time like warts and eczema, that is not the case for skin tags. They are not caused by a virus or seasonal changes and therefore will likely stay for life. The only way that a skin tag will disappear is to remove them using either a medical procedure or over-the-counter products.

All skin tag removals have the same principle. That is to ‘suffocate’ the skin tag or some termed it ‘twisting the tissue’ or ‘drying it off’. The key is to cut off the blood supply of the skin tag so that it will become ‘inactive’. The growth formation will die and detached from the main skin after a period of time. 

To indicate the skin tag’s disintegration, it will turn black. The soft texture will become rock solid due to the hardening of the blood cells trapped. It will come to a point that it no longer receives anything from the main body and will get detached naturally and easily.

Getting Rid of Skin Tags

Since skin tags will be staying for life, there are many procedures that are applied to remove them. Here are some of the popular and proven skin tag removal methods:

  • Ligation, a medical procedure, is used to remove a skin tag through cutting off the blood supply. Although the cosmetic method differs from the home remedy in medical applications, they are similar in a sense. The procedure is to isolate the skin tag from the main skin by closing its blood flow from its stalk. It can be through a band, string or strand of hair. The tightening of the said object will prevent blood from flowing to the skin tag and soon it will start to dry off.
  • Cryotherapy, or freezing, is a procedure with the same application to ligation. However, instead of using a band or string, it will utilize a freezing element. The liquid can so cold that it can slow the blood flow.  As soon as the movement ceases, the skin tag begins to dry off. 
  • Topical creams for the skin, like the essential oils, can influence the pores of the skin tags. The creams and ointments prevent the skin tag from re-oxygenating, which can lead to blood clotting up to its stalk. The said products, however, cannot deal with the virus nor improve the state of the immune system.
  • Surgical methods like laser cutting or even concentrated burning are the likely option if over-the-counter products and homemade methods fail to remove your skin tags. The only issue is the cost and you have to take note that skin tags can re-occur as long as your skin encounters friction or having hormonal imbalances.

Getting Rid of Warts

Warts can be dealt with in a number of ways. You can consult a medical professional or you can do it on your own. There are options that are affordable and also options that can give you fast results with a cost. The following are the methods to get rid of warts:

  • Freezing the wart is a common method of removal. It is similar to how it is being applied to the skin tag. The popular freezing element is liquid nitrogen, which can easily freeze the skin growth and limits the further spread of the virus. When the wart is subjected to the freezing element, a blister will be formed and in a few weeks, it will fall off.
  • Topical creams can also deal warts, similar to how they deal with skin tags. Application of the cream does, not only destroys the skin growth but also improves the chances of fighting against the viral infection.
  • Cutting warts off can seem to be an extreme way of removal. The bleeding can cause the spreading of the virus and the opening caused by the cut can leave you vulnerable to other infections. As long as the virus is active in the body, warts will still be appearing no matter how you cut them.
  • There are ‘natural’ remedies that can cure warts. However, most of them are based on trial-and-error and without clinical approval. You can try them if the testimonials presented seem to be true, at your own risk.

The treatment of warts can either succeed completely or fail but you can do multiple trials and methods until you gain results. If the said methods are not giving you the results you need, a visit to the doctor might solve that problem. There are medical procedures, like electrodesiccation and laser surgery, and prescribed injections and ointments that are provided for a cost.

Scarring Upon Removal

When you remove a skin growth, the possibility of leaving a scar is always present. It all depends on how you apply the removal methods with consideration of the size and location of the wart or skin tag. Here are some different methods classified according to the likelihood of leaving a scar after treatment.

  • The treatment method that is least likely to leave a scar is the application of creams or ointments. Some instances might cause irritation due to allergy, but if it is done properly, no scar will be found. However, the drawback is the amount of time it takes for the skin growth to be removed.
  • Ligation method, when done correctly, won’t usually leave scars afterward. You may be tempted to pull the skin growth after it solidifies due to the blood flow restriction. It is advisable to leave the scab until it falls off on its own.
  • Cryotherapy method, like ligation, also won’t leave scars if done correctly. Leaving the scab to fall on its own after treatment is highly advisable.
  • The treatment method that is most likely to leave a scar is cutting off the skin growth. The usage of regular cutting materials definitely increases the chance of infection also. Even if you use a very sharp and well-sterilized scalpel, if it draws blood, it will surely leave a mark. Worse, it won’t even remove the skin growth completely. 

The best way to prevent scars, no matter what removal tool you use, is to take care of the skin afterward. Hastening the process can cause mess rather than results.

Allow some time for the skin to heal naturally after forcefully removing a skin tag or wart. If certain uncontrollable events lead to exposing the healing skin area early, there are many, medically approved creams that can prevent further damage. 

Treatments That Should be Avoided

Treatments for skin tags and warts can even tend to become overboard. The fact that a skin tag and wart are harmless is the reason why unnecessary treatments should be avoided. Here are some situations in which you can opt-out from treatment:

  • When you consulted a doctor, then he/she performs a biopsy and comes up with unclear conclusions, better stop pushing through. It will just be a waste of money for such indecisions.
  • Even if the skin tag is non-cancerous, it is recommended to open up to your doctor about your skin condition if your family has a history of cancer. But, take note that all skin tags are benign growths so shut down any suggestions of treating them in relation to cancer.
  • Avoid home treatments if the skin growth appears in sensitive areas like near the eyes, genitals, and even on moles. Consult a doctor if it seems to bother you enough to have it removed.
  • Allergies and other biological reactions to home treatment must be taken note of. In situations like this, better seek the doctor’s services so as not to complicate matters.

As of now, you have a basic understanding of the difference between a skin tag and a wart, their tendencies to occur and the effective methods of removal and treating them. It is easy to panic due to the embarrassment they can bring by having them on the body. 

The two of them are unavoidable and normal so they must not be treated as a consequence of being unhygienic. Prioritize your health and finances first before your appearance, unless if you are a celebrity. If you seek treatment for cosmetic reasons, always take into consideration the dos and don’ts.