Can Skin Tags Be a Sign of Diabetes?

Increased thirst, urination, or high blood sugar readings are all known signs of diabetes, but the disease can also make an appearance on your skin.

Skin tags are one of the little-known skin manifestations of diabetes, particularly diabetes mellitus, or type 2 diabetes.

This article will explore what skin tags are, why you might develop them with diabetes, and what you can do to eliminate them.

Multiple Skin Tags


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What Are Skin Tags?

Skin tags (acrochordons) are typically benign (harmless) growths the color of your skin or sometimes darker. These soft bits of tissue can be 1 millimeter to 20 millimeters across and are usually connected to your skin's surface by a small stalk.

Most of the time, skin tags develop with no other symptoms and appear around the neck and armpits; there doesn't have to be a specific cause for skin tags. In fact, it's estimated that between 50% and 60% of adults will develop at least one skin tag by the time they reach their 40s.

Other conditions or diseases linked to a higher prevalence of skin tags include:

  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Abnormal lipid (fat) levels
  • Genetics

Are Skin Tags a Sign of Diabetes?

While skin tags can appear without any specific cause, they tend to occur more often in people with diabetes and insulin resistance, when muscle, fat, and liver cells don't respond well to insulin and you build up a tolerance to it.

Several skin changes can appear with diabetes. These include:

While skin tags generally aren't always a sign of diabetes, one study found that skin tags were the most common skin condition in people with diabetes.

Signs of Diabetes on the Skin

Diabetes has been linked to a number of skin issues. Below is a list of the most common skin conditions and their prevalence in people with diabetes.

  • Skin infections: 71%
  • Skin tags: 33%
  • Cherry angioma: 21%
  • Dry skin: 19%
  • Skin discoloration: 18%
  • Generalized itching: 12%
  • Fat/cholesterol-filled bumps (xanthelasma palpebraum): 8%
  • Brownish/red spots (diabetic dermopathy): 7%
  • Yellowing of the skin on the hand: 5%
  • Thickened skin: 2%
  • Facial redness: 2%
  • Raised bumps in a ring-like pattern (granuloma annulare): 1%


Treatments and Management of Skin Tags

It's not necessary to treat skin tags, but they have the potential to grow in size over time—especially in areas of the body where there is a lot of friction, like skinfolds.

If you decide to have a skin tag removed, it can be cut off—or excised—in your healthcare provider's office. Special precautions may be required if the skin tag is particularly large or in a difficult-to-treat location.

Potential complications of skin tag removal can include:

  • Infection
  • Scarring
  • Pain
  • Irritation

Removing skin tags at home is also possible, but you should always consult your healthcare provider first.

If you start noticing skin tags and think they may be a sign of early diabetes, it's important to see your primary care provider for a thorough examination. Early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes can help you quickly control your blood sugar levels and potentially prevent other, more serious complications and side effects.

When to See Your Healthcare Provider

Skin tags aren't usually a cause for concern, but they can be a red flag for other things happening inside the body. If you have skin tags—especially many of them—talk to your healthcare provider about screening you for conditions like diabetes.

If diabetes is the underlying cause of your skin tags, getting a diagnosis and starting treatment as soon as possible is essential to avoid complications.

Summary

Skin tags are benign skin growths that most adults will develop at some point in their lifetime. However, there is a chance that a condition like diabetes can trigger these growths. Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk for diabetes if you have skin tags.

A Word From Verywell

If you have multiple skin tags or any other symptoms of diabetes, make an appointment to see your primary healthcare provider for a diabetes screening. Uncontrolled or undiagnosed diabetes can lead to serious side effects and complications that can be preventable if caught early.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are skin tags a sign of type 2 diabetes?

    Skin tags can develop on anyone, but they are also a common skin manifestation of type 2 diabetes.

  • Can diabetes cause other skin problems?

    Diabetes can cause several changes to your skin. Aside from skin tags, this can include things like dryness, itchiness, and color or texture changes.

  • How can you treat dry skin from diabetes?

    The first step to treating dry skin or other skin problems from diabetes is to control your blood sugar. Your healthcare provider may also be able to recommend creams, lotions, and other topical treatments to relieve skin dryness caused by diabetes.

3 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.
  1. Saxena K, et al. Skin tags in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a valuable marker. J. Medical Biomed. Sci. 2020;4(2):13-17. doi:10.32553/ijmbs.v4i2.883

  2. Pandey A, Sonthalia S. Skin tags. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022.

  3. Garg P, Chandra M. Cutaneous manifestation of diabetes mellitus. J. Med. Dent. Sci. 2021;9(5):100-105. doi:10.21276/jamdsr

By Rachael Zimlich, BSN, RN
 Rachael is a freelance healthcare writer and critical care nurse based near Cleveland, Ohio.