anal skin tags

Anal skin tags, sometimes referred to as rectal skin tags, are a widespread and generally benign condition. These harmless growths dangle off the skin around the outside of the anus, often feeling like tiny bumps or slightly raised areas. You can even develop more than one at a time, though the good news is they’re usually harmless.

Here, you’ll discover what anal skin tags are, what causes them, and the options available for treatment. Read on to learn everything you need to know about this common, albeit rarely discussed, skin concern.

What Are Anal Skin Tags?

Anal skin tags are quite common, typically harmless, and can often be confused with other conditions like warts or haemorrhoids. To differentiate, there are a few key characteristics to keep in mind.

Anal skin tags usually remain within a few centimetres in size and their surface is like your skin, though possibly slightly wrinkled. They could cause discomfort or itching due to the extra skin tissue, but they don’t usually bleed or cause burning sensations.

Comparatively, warts, which can also occur around the anus due to a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, tend to grow larger over time. They often cover the entire anal area and potentially spread to the genitals. Unlike skin tags, warts have a rough surface, like cauliflower, and often result in a burning itch and bleeding after skin contact.

Another condition that can be confused with anal skin tags is haemorrhoids. Haemorrhoids are enlarged vascular cushions that protrude from the anus but are rarely painful unless they thrombose. Unlike skin tags, they bleed easily, even after light contact, and are usually red or purple in colour.

What Causes Anal Skin Tags?

Anal skin tags are typically the product of loose skin around the anus, which, in normal circumstances, expands during bowel movements to facilitate the passing of stool. A common trigger for their formation is the presence of haemorrhoids, which are swollen blood vessels near the anus.

The excess skin produced during a bout of haemorrhoids often morphs into skin tags, even after the swelling has subsided. Therefore, those who have a history of haemorrhoids or other blood vessel conditions around the anal area, may find themselves more prone to anal skin tags.

Inflammatory conditions like Crohn’s disease can also cause skin tags to form due to the resulting inflammation. A 2020 study of 103 hospital patients with Crohn’s disease indicated that nearly 29% of participants had anal skin tags.

Diagnosis and Treatments

Anal skin tags can be effectively treated by removing the excess tissue. The procedure is typically performed in an operating theatre under general anaesthetic. Some can be removed in the office under local anaesthetic. The area will be cleaned with antibacterial soap before the removal process begins.

This fast, straightforward procedure could involve the use of scissors, laser, or liquid nitrogen to remove the excess skin. Cryotherapy, for example, freezes the skin tag causing it to fall off in a few days. A laser, on the other hand, burns the tag away, leaving any remaining skin to fall off naturally.

If you suspect you may have an anal skin tag, or if you’re experiencing discomfort around your anal area, it’s important to get it looked at to rule out other potential conditions like warts or haemorrhoids. Schedule an appointment with Mr Michael Stellakis today.