Understanding the Differences Between Genital Skin Tags and HPV Warts

“Skin tags at the back”

Skin tags and warts are considered as two of the most common skin problems experienced by a lot of individuals. And as soon as you notice some sort of skin growth in your genital area, then you’ll most likely be concerned without even knowing what it actually is.

New York’s Department of Health revealed HPV (human papillomavirus) to be one of the most common issues in the US. If left untreated, it can result in various health conditions such as cervical cancer. 

Even though skin tags and warts have almost the same appearance, they have certain aspects that will allow you to distinguish between the two of them. In this article, we’re going to tackle the differences between them and answer some of the frequently asked questions regarding HPV warts and skin tags.

Q: Do genital warts share the same appearance as skin tags?

A: Generally, skin tags and genital warts are small bumps that tend to appear on your skin or around your genital area. However, skin tags are slightly different from genital warts due to the fact that they normally grow outward and attach to your skin via a narrow stalk. On the other hand, genital warts are a collection of raised bumps on the skin’s surface.

Q: Can I know if I develop HPV warts?

A: Skin tags can appear regardless of your age, though they’re most common among children, the elderly, and even pregnant women. On the other hand, HPV warts can develop if you engaged in unprotected sex. Once you notice some bumps in your genital area days or weeks after unprotected sex, it’s highly recommended to have it checked by a doctor.

Q: Are skin tags contagious?

A: Regardless of where they appear on your body, even in your genital area, skin tags are not classified as contagious. The reason is simply due to friction on the skin. On the other hand, HPV warts are developed due to an infection.

One way you can get genital warts is by having genital contact with someone who has the infection. If you haven’t had any unprotected sex with anyone within the past few weeks or months, then it’s most likely that what you have are skin tags, not HPV warts.

Q: How can I tell if it’s a genital warts?

A: One common symptom that will help you identify an HPV wart is the growth itself. This means that as soon as you start noticing them on the skin around your genital area, you’re already infected by the virus.

Compared to skin tags, HPV warts normally appear inside your genitals. This is a clear indication that you should seek medical attention as soon as possible for a proper diagnosis. If you can detect and treat warts early on, you will have better chances of preventing the infection from spreading.

Q: What should I look out for?

A: Compared to skin tags, HPV warts can be in various shapes and sizes. Apart from the one mentioned above, some of the things you want to look out for are the following:

  • Sudden bumps in your genital area. Compared to a common skin tag that gradually forms over time, HPV warts will form overnight. This is because the virus can lay dormant for a while before becoming active.
  • Itchy bumps that can bleed if scratched. Since HPV warts prefer moist areas, they normally grow around the genital area.
  • Lesions that can grow into clusters. In most cases, people will develop just one or two warts. Moreover, when they are within the genital area, they can normally be soft and have either a flat or raised appearance.

You should also keep in mind that bumps that appear on your genital area aren’t automatically considered HPV warts or skin tags. There are also other skin conditions that might appear in your genitals, so having them checked by your doctor is highly advised.

Q: How can I remove them?

“Removal of skin tags near the eye area”

A: HPV warts have a different removal process as skin tags due to how they’re obtained. Basically, to remove a skin tag that appears on your genital area, you will need a skin specialist to remove it using a scalpel or even cryotherapy. 

Meanwhile, to remove an HPV wart, you’ll mostly have to take antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading. You’ll also have to use a topical cream to prevent the itching.

Some claim that it’s possible to remove them using certain methods at home. However, a lot of them aren’t backed by scientific studies. There are those who claimed that apple cider vinegar is really effective for dealing with skin tags and HPV warts since it has antibacterial properties.

However, if your growths are inside your vagina, for example, then it’s definitely not recommended to use it.

Q: Is there any way to reduce the chances of them developing?

A: Unfortunately, you can’t prevent skin tags from growing in your genital area. The reason is that they’re caused by friction on your skin. However, HPV warts are a different story. If you’re sexually active, then you have a higher chance of getting infected.

Fortunately, you can prevent or at least reduce the chances of you developing them. Here are some tips that can help you:

  • Using condoms during sexual. However, this only applies to areas that are covered by the condom. Moreover, it’s not a guaranteed means of preventing HPV warts from appearing.
  • Complete abstinence to sex, even oral sex.
  • Engaging in a sexual encounter with only one partner. People who engage in sexual encounters with various partners have a higher chance of developing the infection.
  • Using vaccines that are designed to protect against the virus.
  • Urging your partner to consult a doctor once you notice some suspicious bumps in his/her genital area. It’s highly recommended to have them abstain from any sexual activity until the warts and virus are removed.

Once you have acquired the virus, your chance of getting re-infected is not likely due to how the immune system responds to the virus. However, HPV comes in several types, so you might be infected with a new strain if you engage in sex with another partner. 

Due to this, it’s best to inform your partner about the risks of HPV so both of you can make informed decisions about it.

Q: Is it possible to treat HPV warts using over-the-counter medications?

A: You can actually find various over-the-counter medications that are designed to deal with HPV warts. However, they might not be as effective as they claim to be. Therefore, if you think you have acquired the virus, the best option is to consult your doctor about it as soon as possible.

Even though you might be embarrassed to tell your doctor about it, he’s the only one who can provide you with an effective treatment to remove your HPV warts. If you just leave the problem unattended, you’ll run the risk of developing serious health conditions. 

Q: Will they disappear on their own?

A: Generally, skin tags will normally die out and disappear on their own. On the other hand, HPV warts, alongside the virus, will stay unless you get yourself treated. Always keep in mind that the warts are just symptoms of the virus. Therefore, even though the growths disappear, the virus will still linger inside your body.

Final Thoughts

To be honest, most of us will definitely feel uncomfortable with all the growths on our genital area, regardless if they’re HPV warts or just skin tags. Therefore, as soon as you notice those growths, you’ll most likely want to have them removed.

However, it’s very important to seek medical attention instead of attempting to remove the growths by yourself. If you’re a woman who has concerns about getting your HPV warts removed and the virus treated, you can always seek help from a female physician to make you more comfortable.

Apart from that, you should always keep in mind that it’s your responsibility to make sure you don’t get infected with the virus or transmit it to other people. That said, make sure you abstain from any forms of sexual activity until you get yourself fully treated.