How do I know if it’s a skin tag or a wart?

skin lesion removalPlastic surgeons can deal with any number of unexpected, unwanted and unwelcome bodily conditions, one of these being the removal of unsightly or irritating skin lesions. Examples of these include skin tags and warts – but how can you tell the difference between the two?

Warts are small, rough growths that are typically found on the hands and feet. Their appearance ranges from looking a bit like a raised blister to looking much lumpier, like a miniature cauliflower.

Skin tags on the other hand tend to be much softer and are formed anywhere on the body where there are folds of skin that create the perfect conditions for a tag to form. They can be very tiny and resemble a small mole, or up to around 5mm long and be more elongated.

Are they essentially the same thing?

Warts and skin tags may occasionally look the same but they are very different. The key difference between warts and skin tags is how they are formed.

Warts are formed due to the presence of a virus in the skin called the human papilloma virus. The virus enters the skin through a cut or an abrasion and causes the skin to create more keratin than it needs. Keratin is naturally produced by the skin and in the correct quantities just forms part of the normal epidermis (the outer layer of the skin). In the presence of the human papilloma virus it goes into overdrive and creates a hard bump on the skin, which takes on the unsightly appearance of a wart. This is the same virus that is also responsible for creating veruccas.

Skin tags are created when excess skin rubs together and creates a protrusion. There is no virus or infection responsible for their creation, but they tend to be more prevalent in people who are overweight or obese, as there is more spare skin available. Skin tags can vary a lot in terms of size and shape, whereas warts tend to be more rotund.

What can be done to fix them?

Now the differences are clear in terms of how they are created, the similarities arrive when looking at treatments for both skin tags and warts.

Warts will often eventually disappear of their own accord, although this is not often a speedy process – it can take years. Skin tags will occasionally fall off, but often people choose either to leave them alone or have them surgically removed.

If you choose to have warts or skin tags removed then many of the same treatments and techniques can work for both. Plastic surgeons or GPs may freeze them off or burn them off with a controlled acidic solution. Skin tags can also be treated by snipping them off or cutting them off with a sharp scalpel. They may also be removed by a technique similar to a tourniquet – a small wire or threat can be used to cut off the blood supply to the tag which will lead it to fall off.