No one enjoys skin tags: they're unattractive, a hindrance during physical activities, and require special care to avoid damage. In most cases, skin tags are similar to moles and do not indicate any serious medical issue, though they can develop due to an existing condition or physical change.
People with diabetes are more likely to have and develop skin tags because changing hormones and glucose fluctuations can interfere with skin cells. A recent study found that skin tags are associated with higher levels of cholesterol in individuals with diabetes.
Skin tags are one of several discomforts that people with obesity can develop. In these instances, the tags usually occur due to folds of skin rubbing together continuously. Individuals with obesity can develop skin tags in areas such as the inner thighs, armpits, and stomach.
Various factors can cause friction on the skin, which can lead to skin tags. People with obesity can develop the tags due to the friction of tighter clothing as well as skin against skin. Tight clothing can cause skin tags on people who are not overweight as well, however. Actions such as excessive movement, exercise, and sweating can cause skin tags when they exacerbate friction.
During pregnancy, the body goes through a bevy of hormonal changes and other alterations, such as weight gain. Pregnant women are more likely to develop skin tags later in the gestation period. The tags usually grow near the belly, since that is where the skin has changed most significantly, but they can also grow on the face along the eyelids, neck, and underarms. Weight gain itself can also lead to skin tags.
The National Institute of Health states that 59 percent of people develop at least one skin tag by the age of 70. Collagen in the skin becomes less abundant as the body ages, which leads to sagging skin. This stretching and loss of suppleness in the skin lead to new locations of excess friction which, as noted, is a primary cause of skin tags.
Hyperinsulinemia often accompanies type II diabetes and can be misdiagnosed as diabetes or hyperglycemia. Though it can appear along with diabetes, hyperinsulinemia is a separate health issue that develops when there is an excessive amount of insulin relative to glucose in the bloodstream. People who do not have diabetes can also develop the condition. Skin tags are symptomatic of both diabetes and hyperinsulinemia. Skin quality is partially dependent on the regulation of sugar in the blood, and skin tags may develop and persist even after treatment.
If levels of the hormones progesterone and estrogen are out of balance, an individual may experience decreased libido, intense fatigue, stress, irritability, and anxiety. Hormonal imbalances also lead to skin tags. Menopause is one cause of these hormonal fluctuations, and aging can also prompt such changes. Because changes in hormone balance can cause many symptoms and conditions, individuals experiencing severe imbalances may require the care of an endocrinologist.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects women whose ovaries are enlarged and contain several fluid-filled sacs: small, immature ovarian follicles. PCOS is hard to diagnose because many of the symptoms match other conditions and can cause various issues with fertility, problematic menstrual cycles, and general discomfort or pain. A woman with PCOS will experience irregular periods, excessive hair on their face and buttocks, hair loss, darkening of the skin, and skin tags. The condition is often accompanied by high levels of insulin in the blood and weight gain. Both the condition itself and the resulting symptoms can lead to skin tags. PCOS requires treatment to avoid complications such as infertility, liver diseases, and diabetes.
Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome does not cause skin tags in adults, but children with the rare and genetic condition are particularly prone to the growths. Though skin tags on the neck, face, and upper chest can indicate the syndrome, few parents or doctors link the two. Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome requires regular visits to the doctor, as this condition can precede kidney cancer and lung diseases.
HPV is one of the most widespread STDs and may be a cause of skin lesions called warts. The virus is difficult to detect due to the lack of symptoms in the first years after contraction. The symptoms of HPV are also easily mistaken for many other conditions or illnesses. Ideally, individuals will be tested specifically for the virus when having a general STI test. HPV infections are commonly associated with skin warts, which are different from skin tags. However, newer studies suggest that skin tags may be caused by HPV infections, in some cases.
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