What Causes Anal Skin Tags?

Skin tags are a harmless bump on the anal area that can feel itchy. They are more common in obese people, those who suffer from chronic bowel problems like Crohn’s disease, and pregnant women.

Fortunately, anal skin tags can usually be removed during a quick in-office procedure. Your doctor will numb and cleanse the anal area before inserting a thin tube with a camera on it called an anoscope.

Genetics

Skin tags are small, hanging growths in the anal area. They can cause pain, itching, and other discomfort. However, they are harmless and often do not need treatment. People may notice them when they go to the bathroom, shower, or wipe their bottoms.

Most often, skin tags around the anus are caused by a buildup of pressure on the rectal walls. This can be due to straining during bowel movements or sitting on the toilet for long periods of time, as well as wearing tight clothing or having anal fissures (see below).

Hemorrhoids can also cause anal skin tags. This is because the underlying blood vessels of an external hemorrhoid swell up and push against the skin. The resulting skin tag is a swollen fleshy bump of the anal canal or “sentinel tag”. This type of skin tag does not usually bleed and, in contrast, hemorrhoids do bleed when even mildly irritated.

It is important for a doctor to determine if anal skin tags are actually skin tags and not something else, such as a tumor or blood clot. This can be done by a visual exam of the anal area or by performing a sigmoidoscopy or anoscopy. A sigmoidoscopy involves passing a scope into the rectum to feel for masses or bulges. An anoscopy is a more invasive procedure and involves inserting a tube into the anal opening, though it does not require numbing medication like a sigmoidoscopy.

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Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoidal skin tags are painless, smooth folds of soft tissue felt on the outside of the anus. They’re typically round in shape and no larger than a fingernail. These bumps are usually the same color as the rest of your skin but can also be lighter or darker. Hemorrhoidal skin tags develop when blood vessels in the rectum swell and then shrink back to their normal size, leaving overlying stretched-out skin.

This type of skin tag can form from anal friction, overlying swollen hemorrhoids or a combination of these factors. Often a consultation with an experienced proctologist is required to properly assess the cause of symptoms and the appropriate course of treatment which may include observation, lubrication or simple in office removal of the skin tag.

To prevent this condition, lubricating the rectum before a bowel movement and wiping with a non-perfumed wipe after is recommended. It’s also a good idea to keep the area clean and sanitized after every stool pass. If the skin around the anus becomes irritated or itchy, applying a gentle skin cleanser will help reduce this sensation. Consult a gastroenterologist about chronic itching, pain or changes in bowel habits as these symptoms could be signs of a more serious medical condition. The physicians at OneWelbeck Digestive Health can offer a thorough evaluation and treatment to ensure your gastrointestinal health.

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Trauma

Skin tags can develop in the rectal area due to friction and stretching of the delicate skin around the anus. This can occur from several sources including frequent straining during bowel movements, pregnancy and childbirth, chronic diarrhea or constipation, and anal sex. The irritation from anal skin tags can lead to a cycle of itching, rashes and other uncomfortable symptoms that require treatment. At SoHo Men’s Health, our doctors are experienced in removing anal skin tags and addressing any underlying problems that may be contributing to their formation.

Small asymptomatic skin tags are not cause for concern, but larger ones can become itchy and can also contribute to hygiene challenges in the anal area. Patients who experience bleeding, pain, itching, heaviness or a rash should contact their doctor for a thorough rectal exam to make sure that they aren’t dealing with a more serious condition.

Although some patients find numbing creams and other home remedies helpful, anal skin tag removal is usually an office procedure performed under local anesthesia. The doctor will inject a numbing medication around the area and may provide a mild sedative to help patients relax. The skin tag will be cut away from its base with scissors or a scalpel to prevent re-growth. If he finds any other signs of a more serious issue, he will discuss treatment options with the patient.

Hygiene

Skin tags grow anywhere the skin is irritated, usually due to friction. They are commonly seen at the neck from necklaces or clothing, armpits where creases rub against the skin and in anal areas where there is friction due to constipation, anal fissures, thrombosed external hemorrhoids or excessive rubbing or cleaning of the anus or rectum. In addition, certain medical conditions like Crohn’s disease can make you more prone to developing anal skin tags.

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Hemorrhoids can be mistaken for anal skin tags because they both swell in the area, but hemorrhoids are due to swollen veins while anal skin tags are just flappy bits of excess skin. It is important to have these annoyances examined so that they are properly diagnosed and treated to prevent complications.

Most simple anal skin tags do not turn into cancer, but a small percentage of them can. It is important to have these annoyances evaluated by your colorectal surgeon so that the correct diagnosis can be made. He or she can tell whether you have a simple skin tag that will never turn into cancer or one of the rarer wart-like skin lesions that may be associated with HPV infection. Once the correct diagnosis is made, your doctor can recommend the most appropriate treatment option for you.

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