How Do I Know If I’ve Got Skin Tags or Warts?
Skin is a beautiful thing. On your best day, it’s smooth and radiant, supple and clear. But skin can also have a whole variety of problems that come with it. Acne, fungus, eczema, dry skin, to name a few. There are even nasty things that can grow on it, affecting every part of your body. How do you know what you’ve got happening to you? Is the thing growing on you something like a wart or a blister? Possibly a skin tag or blister? Sometimes two different kinds of growths look so similar you have no idea what you’re dealing with. An example of this is skin tags and warts.
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What is the Difference
A wart is caused by a virus called Human Papilloma Virus. It enters your skin through tiny breaks and settles into your epithelial cells where it then causes your skin to grow at an extremely rapid rate. The result is a raised growth we know as a wart.
There are several different types of warts:
- Common wart: This is what people usually picture when they think of a wart: rounded, a smooth top, with defined borders and a fleshy color. Common warts can be found pretty much anywhere, but you’ll usually see them on places like your hands, fingers, arms, neck and face. To learn more about common warts, see this page.
Filiform wart: These might be one of the uglier types of warts. Filiform are noticeable by their many fingerlike projections coming up from the base. Most often, you’ll see these warts on the face. Read more here.Skin tags are more common on overweight or elderly people.
- Flat warts: Flat warts almost always come in groupings, are flesh-colored, and are more oval-shaped than round. They are usually on the arms, legs, or face, and are commonly spread through shaving. When a wart is nicked by a razor, a tiny piece comes off that can then into a new area of the skin also broken by the razor. This creates a new series of warts. To find out more details on flat warts, go here.
- Plantar wart: These warts are located on the bottom of the foot and are wide and flush with the skin. You may see black dots in the center, which are coagulated blood vessels. For more information click here.
- Subungual wart: Found underneath toenails or fingernails, subungual warts have a bumpy top to them and lack defined edges. These should always be taken care of as soon as possible, as letting them grow can damage the nail bed. Please see detailed descriptions here.
Whenever you’ve got a disturbance in the skin, there’s a chance of a scar forming. To learn more about a wart scar, go here.
Skin tags are different than warts. Known scientifically as Acrochordon, they aren’t a product of any virus, unlike warts, and can grow without exposure to any kind of foreign substance. Skin tags are benign growths of skin that occur most often in areas where two areas of skin rub together frequently. You’ll see them in areas like the armpit, groin, and neck. Sometimes you’ll see a skin tag on your face; when this happens, they’re most commonly seen on the eyelid.
The removal of a skin tag is similar to wart removal. Options include cryotherapy, surgical excision, and laser therapy. Another method used on skin tags is ligation, the process of tying a string or loop around the tag’s stalk, choking it to death, in a way. This causes the skin tag to fall off.
Some characteristics of skin tags:
- Small bumps usually occurring more than one at a time.
- Sometimes skin tags are a flap-like piece of skin.
- There is often a fleshy stalk that grows out from the skin and attaches to the rounded tag.
But is a skin tag a wart?
No, a skin tag isn’t a wart. First of all, skin tags aren’t caused by any kind of virus, which is what cause warts. Some scientists say a skin tag is a harmless type of tumor, and some say otherwise. Something that is known for certain is that tags aren’t dangerous.
Another thing to know is that warts have a high chance of returning once you get rid of them. Skin tags don’t have a virus associated with them that could make them grow back, so once you get rid of the tag, it should be gone for good. If your growth keeps coming back in the same spot, there’s a good chance it’s a wart.
All warts are caused by HPV in various strains, which some people may not realize. More details on what causes warts can be found by clicking here.
Genital Warts Compared to Skin Tags
There are different types of HPV, each called a strain, that cause different kinds of warts. One of these types is genital warts, which only grow in the genital region or the mouth. They have a cauliflower-type top and grow in clusters, and are extremely contagious. Genital warts are spread through sexual contact.
Skin tags have nothing to do with sexual contact, and are not contagious at all. While they can have a more bumpy surface sometimes, generally skin tags are smoother.
How do I get skin tags?
While there is no definitive causality for skin tags, researchers believe them to be caused by the friction of skin rubbing on skin. The tags are possibly made of collagen and blood vessels that become trapped inside thicker pieces of skin through the friction.
People who are overweight or obese have a much higher incidence of skin tags, due to the extra skin on their body rubbing together so much.
A callus is similar to a wart in that it’s a firm, raised bump in the skin. But what’s the difference? To learn more about if your bump is a wart or callus, go here.
A mistaken identity
Because of the seriousness of genital warts, you might be panicking at the thought that you have them, when in fact you’ve got a skin tag. But how do you know for sure?
Some commonalities between skin tags and genital warts:
- Both skin tags and genital warts can grow in clusters.
- Genital warts usually have a rough surface, and skin tags sometimes do as well.
- Skin tags are commonly found in the groin area near the genitals.
Differences between skin tags and genital warts:
- Genital warts come in outbreaks and will return even after treatment, while skin tags will not come back once removed.
- Although skin tags are seen in the groin area, they are rarely found on the genitals themselves. If they are found on the genitals, the scrotum is the most likely place you’ll see them.
- Skin tags generally stick up and out more than genital warts.
If you’re a man, it’s possible to have a skin tag on your scrotum and mistake it for a sexually transmitted infection. If you’re concerned about whether or not you’re dealing with an STI or a tag, go see your doctor, who can accurately determine what’s going on. From there, they’ll suggest a treatment plan, depending on which type growth you have.
How You Can Prevent
Because there isn’t a surefire cause to skin tags, it’s hard to say what will and won’t cause them. Something that is known, however, is that people who are very overweight have a much higher rate of skin tags than anyone else.
To help stay at a healthy weight and decrease your chances of skin tags, consider the following:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat vegetables and fruits on a daily basis.
- Limit your sugar intake.
- Make it a habit to exercise for 30 minutes a day.
For those who have been severely overweight and lost a considerable amount of it, there will be a good amount of loose skin that will still rub together and may cause skin tags. The only option at that point is surgery to remove the excess skin.
As far as warts, there are definitely things you can do to prevent them. Always wear shoes in public showers, locker rooms, and pool decks. Wash your hands with good soap frequently. Avoid touching other people’s warts. Practice safe sex and discuss the possibility of genital warts with sexual partners.
When it comes time to figure out if that thing growing in your skin is a tag or wart, take the time to know what symptoms come with each one. Then once you decide, the next step can take place: treatment. And don’t worry, there’s several options available for both warts and skin tags, leaving you with the clear, smooth skin you had before.
You can find further details of Warts here.