What Are Anal Skin Tags?

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Anal skin tags are growths of excess skin around the anus. They are often caused by straining or inflammation. They are not cancerous. Still, they can be itchy or sensitive to the touch.

These common skin growths can be diagnosed and removed easily. Depending on the cause, some may be prevented with simple lifestyle changes.

This article will help you learn to recognize anal skin tags. It also looks at possible causes, how anal skin tags are identified, and what can be done to treat them.

Man with irritated backside walking in his apartment

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Anal Skin Tag Symptoms

Anal skin tags are skin-colored or brown growths or bumps attached to a tiny stalk. They are usually less than 6 millimeters in size. Some can grow to be several centimeters.

Anal skin tags do not cause pain or bleeding. They can be itchy and tender to the touch, though. They can also be bothersome.

Anal skin tags can get caught on your underwear. They may also become itchy and inflamed when you clean or wipe the area.

Causes of Anal Skin Tags

Skin tags may develop from prior external hemorrhoids. These are swollen, enlarged veins in the anal area.

When the swelling goes down, the skin around the hemorrhoid may not tighten back up. The loose skin may become a skin tag.

Common causes of external hemorrhoids include:

  • Constipation: Straining to pass a bowel movement can put pressure on blood vessels in the anal area. This can cause them to swell.
  • Heavy lifting: This can also put pressure on the veins in your rectum and anal area. This may lead to swelling.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnant people are more prone to hemorrhoids and skin tags. This is partly because of hormonal changes. It is also due to the weight of the baby on the veins behind the uterus.

Anal skin tags are also common in people with Crohn’s disease. This is a type of inflammatory bowel disease.

In people with Crohn's disease, anal skin tags are caused by inflammation. In some cases, they are the first sign of this condition.

Skin tags may also form as a result of wetness, irritation, and excessive wiping from diarrhea. They could also form because of long-term friction from wearing tight underwear.

Excess skin that forms after repeated scarring may also cause anal skin tags. This might happen, for example, after healing from an anal fissure. An anal fissure is a tear in the lining of the anus.

People with certain genetic disorders like Birt-Hogg-Dubé (BHD) syndrome may also be more prone to developing skin tags. In these cases, skin tags mainly form on other areas of the body.

Recap

Anal skin tags may have a number of causes. These include prior hemorrhoids, Crohn's disease, or irritation and scarring.

anal skin tags causes

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Diagnosis of Anal Skin Tags

If you think you have an anal skin tag, see your doctor. They will be able to do a proper evaluation.

A primary care doctor can often diagnose anal skin tags. You may also be referred to a specialist.

A gastroenterologist is a doctor who focuses on the digestive system. A dermatologist addresses skin issues.

Before your exam, your doctor will first ask you to remove your pants and underwear. You'll be given a hospital gown or paper drape to cover up.

Next, your doctor will ask you to lie on an exam table, usually on your side. Alternately, you may be asked to stand up and lean over the exam table.

The doctor will gently examine your anal area using gloved hands. In some cases, a more detailed exam may be required.

Rectal Exam

During a rectal exam, your doctor will insert a lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum. During this exam, the doctor feels for abnormal structures inside your rectum/anus.

A rectal exam may be uncomfortable, but it is usually quick. Also, remember that doctors are trained in giving these exams.

Anoscopy

Your doctor may decide to perform an anoscopy. This is usually done by a gastroenterologist. The procedure can take place in the doctor's office.

You will be given a laxative or enema to clear your bowels ahead of time. Sedation is usually not needed.

During an anoscopy, your doctor will first lubricate a thin, rigid tool with a light on the end of it. This is called an anoscope. It will then be inserted a few centimeters into your anus.

If a tissue sample or biopsy is needed, it can be taken at this time.

You may feel some discomfort when the anoscope is inserted. Like a rectal exam, though, it is a quick procedure.

Sigmoidoscopy

A sigmoidoscopy is a test that looks at the rectum and the last part of the colon. This part of the colon is called the sigmoid colon.

This test may not be needed for simple skin tags. It may be done, though, if your doctor suspects another cause for a lump in the anal area.

This test is usually done by a gastroenterologist. It also requires that you take an enema or strong laxatives beforehand to clean out the bowel.

No anesthesia is usually used, but you may receive a sedative. This will help you relax or sleep during the procedure.

The instrument used is called a sigmoidoscope. It is inserted through the rectum and moved up into the large intestine. This test gives your healthcare provider a good look inside the last section of the colon. Biopsies can also be taken if needed.

Recap

The diagnosis of anal skin tags usually involves only a simple inspection of the anal area. In some cases, a rectal exam or other procedure is performed.

Anal Skin Tag Removal

After a skin tag is diagnosed, you and your doctor will need to decide if it should be removed or left alone. If your skin tags are small or aren’t causing symptoms or discomfort, it might not be worth removing them right away, or at all.

Skin tag removal is usually very quick. It can be done in your doctor's office.

First, a numbing medication will be injected into the area around the skin tag. This will help minimize discomfort. In some cases, a sedative may be given.

The techniques used to remove a skin tag include:

  • Simple excision: The skin tag is removed with surgical scissors or a scalpel.
  • Laser: The skin tag is burned off with a laser.
  • Cryotherapy: The skin tag is frozen off with liquid nitrogen.
  • Electrodesiccation: An electrical current is applied to the skin to dry out the skin tag.

If a large wound is present after the skin tag is removed, it may be closed with stitches. These may dissolve on their own or they may need to be removed during a follow-up visit.

You can expect to go home right after the procedure. Your doctor will probably instruct you to rest for the remainder of the day. Light activities can often be resumed the next day.

Your doctor may also recommend avoiding strenuous activities for a period of time while you heal. This could be several days to a few weeks.

After your procedure, you will need to keep your anal area clean after a bowel movement. You may need to use wipes to remove bacteria from the area or wash thoroughly with soap and water. 

Stool softeners might also be prescribed after anal skin tag removal. This will keep your bowel movements soft so they can be passed without straining.

Sitting in a bathtub in a few inches of water or using a sitz bath may also be recommended. A sitz bath is a shallow tub that fits over the toilet and can be filled with warm water.

Recap

Anal skin tags can be removed with various office-based procedures. These include cutting out or freezing the skin tag, or removing it with a laser or electric current.

Preventing Anal Skin Tags

To prevent anal skin tags, you need to find out why you are developing them in the first place. If recurrent external hemorrhoids are the problem, you may need lifestyle changes.

Tips for preventing hemorrhoids include:

  • Avoid straining.
  • Limit time spent sitting on the toilet.
  • Stay active every day.
  • Drink six to eight glasses of water throughout the day.
  • Eat a high-fiber diet or take fiber supplements, as recommended by your doctor.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

If you have Crohn's disease, see your gastroenterologist regularly. Take your medication as advised.

Recap

You cannot prevent skin tags unless you know why they are occurring. If it's because of hemorrhoids, it will help to avoid straining. If it's chronic diarrhea, make sure to wipe gently after a bowel movement.

Summary

Anal skin tags are growths of excess skin around the anus. They can be itchy and bothersome. There are many possible causes. These include hemorrhoids, scarring in the anal area, and chronic skin irritation.

Fortunately, these harmless skin growths can be easily diagnosed and quickly removed. The procedure is relatively painless and can be done in a doctor's office.

Recovery after anal skin tag removal involves simple at-home strategies. These include taking stool softeners and avoiding strenuous activity for a short period of time.

A Word From Verywell

Skin tags can be annoying and mildly uncomfortable. They are not usually a cause for concern, though. They won’t progress into a more serious condition or become cancerous.

That said, don't assume a lump or bump in your anal area is a skin tag. Get it checked by a doctor to be safe.

It's also important to see a doctor if a previously diagnosed anal skin tag suddenly changes in size or color or becomes painful.

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8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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