For many people in our prevention conscious society, early detection of certain ailments can mean the difference between developing a chronic condition and simply attending to a health issue. This can be particularly true for diseases that may be managed, but may not be curable, especially once they are advanced.
While cancer is always a concern for any individual, melanomas and skin cancers have become considerably more prevalent as environmental conditions in the atmosphere continue to change. For this reason, many people can become overly worried about strange blemishes and other markings in the skin. However, while it is always a good idea to remain alert and cautious of physical changes on and in the body, it can also be important to recognize when a bump is really just a bump.
However, even seemingly minor skin imperfections such as warts and skin tags can still become a nuisance and may spread.
What is a Skin Tag?
Skin tags are simply places where the skin has exhibited exuberant cell growth and formed a dark colored protrusion on the body. Although skin tags will often hang from the skin, as though from a root, they can also be flatter and more flush to the skin. In this respect, they may resemble a beauty mark, or even be mistaken for a melanoma, but they are actually quite harmless. The cells that form these blemishes are not malignant, and the excessive growth tends to stop once the initial fold of the skin has been formed.
Although skin tags can appear at any point in life, they do tend to be more common appearances for middle aged to older adults. Gender and even ethnic background does not seem to be linked to these occurrences, and skin tags can appear anywhere on the body, including the face, although they can be more common:
- In armpits
- In the groin region
- On the back of the neck
However, there are certain risk factors that are linked to the occurrence of skin tags. These include:
- Genetic predisposition
Generally, skin tags can be considered a nuisance, and at worst they may be an indicator for diabetes. These blemishes are not contagious, not are they directly dangerous to health and wellbeing.
How Are Warts Different?
Although warts are also skin protrusions that can either be the same color as the skin or slightly darker, these are significantly different than skin tags. Warts are actually caused by a virus that is similar in structure to herpes, and can be spread through contact. Essentially, the wart virus will invade a skin cell and rapidly proliferate. These results in the tell tale bumps that can appear almost anywhere on the body, although hands, feet, genitals, and lips are the most common places for occurrence.
While the viral cause of warts is what causes them to be contagious, it also means that warts can spread from one are of the body to another. Genital warts and cold sores can be cross contagious, since this version of the virus has greater capacity to take root in mucus membranes rather than on the dermis. However, warts on other parts of the body can be spread through contact, so it can be wise to have them treated, or keep them covered to avoid contagion.
Warts can also appear as single formations or as clusters. Although they can be extremely unsightly, they are generally not painful and can be relatively harmless. It should be noted that people with lowered immune function may become more at risk for shingles or even colds and flus, although this is more common if a warts have been left untreated for extended periods of time.
A word should be said about plantar warts, as these are still caused by viral infection and do require special treatment. These types of warts are mainly found on the soles of the feet and sometimes the palms of the hands. While they do still show as a protrusion above the surface of the skin, the majority of a plantar wart is actually growing into the hand or the foot. Because these warts develop a strong and deeply planted root, they must be surgically excised, and should not be dealt with without professional help.
Treatment for Both Skin Conditions
Skin tags may be surgically removed, and this is especially recommended if they have a considerably wider base, or if they are closer to flush with the skin. This is generally an outpatient procedure that is performed under a local anesthetic, and can be done with a regular scalpel or through laser surgery. In places where the skin tags are highly visible, laser surgery is recommended, as the heat from the beam cauterizes the skin and can lead to less visible impact during healing.
Skin tags that have a smaller base may not require surgery and can be dealt with through topical compounds. It should be noted that freezing is not the best option for skin tags, as this can damage the surrounding skin. However, topical compounds that contain natural ingredients such as bloodroot and poke, can cause the skin tag to dissolve, without any discomfort or lasting marks.
Warts that are found on the dermis also have several options for removal. Outpatient surgery and laser removal can be highly effective and it is recommended for occurrences where clusters of warts are the size of a dime or larger. Single warts may also be removed in this manner, although the home or professional application of liquid nitrogen for freezing them off can also be a valid choice. Freezing can also put the wart virus into stasis, and this can prevent contagion.
Although genital warts may also be removed through laser surgery, this will not necessarily prevent a future outbreak, since viruses in the mucus membranes do become systemic. However, oral anti-virals that are specifically formulated to attack the herpes virus can at least manage future outbreaks.