Genital Skin Tags vs. Warts – What’s the Difference?

How to Tell Skin Tags and Warts Apart

Skin tag versus genial wart and how to differentiate them? Both are skin ailments that grow on your skin. While skin tags are just excessive growth of skin and are not painful, warts are skin infection that can grow on various parts of your body. They look like each other and are mistaken between one another.

Skin tags are small, maybe up to a half-inch in size, and are usually the size of a grain of rice. They are small and flattened like a pinhead bump. Skin tags mostly appear on eyelids, armpits, groin, upper chest, under the breast, and on your neck. Often they go unnoticed unless they appear in a prominent area. They are harmless and non-cancerous. However, people often take treatments to cure skin tags for aesthetic and cosmetic reasons.

Common warts are small, grainy skin growths, caused by human papillomavirus or HPV that is grown on hands, fingers, and toes. They are small, fleshy, grainy bumps that are pink in color. They are initially flesh-colored but change to white or pink over a period of time. Common warts are rough to touch and have small, black dots around them.

Neither is necessarily a sign of a serious condition like skin cancer although it may appear concerning. You should absolutely contact your doctor if you’re suspicious about a skin growth being something other than benign skin.

Skin Tag Pictures

A picture of a skin tag.

Genital Warts Pictures

A picture of a genital wart.

What Causes Skin Tags?

Skin tags are usually formed among people above the age of 50. It is formed in creases and folds when skin rubs against skin, which is why they can be found in the armpits, neck, groin, and also the eyelids. One cause of skin tag can also be when a blood vessel gets enlarged and becomes trapped under thicker pieces of skin. People with diabetes, as well as overweight or obese people, have a higher chance of growing skin tags in their bodies.

What Are the Reasons for Warts?

Common warts are caused by the human papillomavirus or HPV. The virus causes warts by entering through any skin tissues that are slightly cut or scraped. Warts are contagious, so there are chances you may develop warts from someone who already has them. Warts can grow on your body If you have a weak immune system, which is why they are more common among children who have a developing immune system.

Where Do Warts Appear?

Six major types of warts can appear on various parts of your body.

Common warts: These warts usually grow on your fingers or toes, but can also occur in other places in your body.

Flat Warts: Flat warts grow on your arms, face, or thighs. They cannot be noticed as they are small. They are pink, brown, or light yellow.

Filiform Warts: Filiform warts are of the color of your skin and commonly grow on the face, especially near the eyelids or the lips.

Periungual Warts: Periungual warts grow under the toenails and fingernails and can be quite painful.

Genital Warts: These are warts that occur around the genital area.

Plantar Warts: Plantar warts are painful lumps that can be found on the soles of your feet.  They make walking uncomfortable as they are tiny in size but are surrounded by hardened skin.

Where Do People Get Skin Tags?

Skin tags are a harmless growth of excess skin that you can find on the eyelids, armpits, under the breasts, groin, upper chest, and neck. You may not notice bumps in your body unless they are in a prominent place that you touch or see often.

Skin tags on the male genital area can be concerning since they resemble warts. We’ll explore what is the cause of pubic growths shortly.

Will Warts Go Away on Their Own?

Skin warts often subside on their own after a few days. There are home remedies and over the counter medications that treat warts from your skin by gradually reducing their size.  However, it is advisable for One to visit a doctor and seek medical advice when:

  • The warts are painful and change their color
  • Common warts keep recurring on your skin despite treatment
  • You are unsure if they are common warts
  • You have several warts sprouting, which indicates that you have a weakening immune system

Will Skin Tags Fall off without Treatment?

Skin tags are a non-cancerous growth of excessive skin. They are harmless and often go unnoticed if it grows somewhere on your skin that you don’t often see or touch. Skin tags do not require treatment as they can fall off on their own, however, there are home remedies available that can be helpful in removing the skin.

How to Get Rid of Skin Tags

There are various home remedies and over-the-counter options you can try to get rid of your skin tag. One of these options will work:

Skin Tag Removal Kit

Be it a large skin tag or a smaller one, you can use a removal kit to remove it of all sizes anywhere on your body. Before you apply the skin tag band, clean the area surrounding the skin tag, and apply the skin band using the tag band cone provided. Once the band is applied to the skin tag, it will cut down the blood supply to the tag making it fall off after a few days.

Make sure you choose a medically reviewed removal kit since improper ones can cause damage.

Freezing a Skin Tag

Skin tags can be treated by freezing them completely, this will cut off the nutrition it is receiving from your body, making them fall off from your body. You can find skin freezing sprays available at any drugstore. Before using the spray, make sure the skin surrounding the skin aberration doesn’t come in contact with the spray.

These kits typically contain butane spray while dermatologists use the more powerful liquid nitrogen.

Applying Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is extracted from tea tree leaves that have natural antibacterial properties. It can be used as an antiseptic to treat warts, acne, cold sores, moles, and even skin tags. Skin tags grow by getting constant blood supply. When you apply tea tree oil on your skin tag, it will cut out the oxygen supply thereby reducing its size. This is a slow process and will take up to eight weeks when applied regularly, but it is cheaper and safer than surgical or non-surgical options.

Applying Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is used for removing warts and for treating other skin ailments. Soak a cotton ball with apple cider vinegar and apply it on your growths securing the spot with a bandage. Leave it on your soft wart for ten minutes a day. Repeat the process two-three times each day until the bumps weaken and fall off.

How to Treat Warts at Home

Warts can be treated at home by trying out natural and safe home remedies that have proven to be effective in removing warts.

Green Tea

Green tea is rich in antioxidants and is an excellent solution for skincare remedy. 2-3 glasses of green tea every day will increase the antioxidant supply to your skin and reduce warts.

You can also apply a used green tea bag on a wart-infected skin. Place the tea bag on the wart for 10-15 minutes and repeat the process thrice a day along with drinking green tea.

Duct Tape

Duct tape is a tried and tested method to clear common warts. In this method, you cover the wart with duct tape, thus depriving it of air and sun exposure. Remove the duct tape once a week and wash the affected area. Keep it exposed overnight and reapply the duct tape again in the morning.

To speed up the process, you can apply salicylic acid on the wart and cover it with duct tape.

Garlic

Garlic is known for its medicinal properties that help fight fungal infections and have been used as a remedy for a long time. Allicin, an anti-viral component present in garlic makes it of great medicinal value.

Crush a clove of garlic and place the crushed garlic on the affected area. Cover the area with a bandage or a duct tape. Make sure that the crushed garlic is not in contact with any unaffected area or any part of the skin that has cuts or wounds.

Apply fresh-cut garlic to the wart-affected area every day. The healing process will take 3-4 weeks.

Apple Cider Vinegar

The vinegar in apple cider vinegar acts like salicylic acid. It burns the infected area and treats the infected skin causing the wart to fall off. The irritation you get from applying vinegar stimulates your immune system’s ability to fight the wart.

Mix some apple cider vinegar with a little water and soak a cotton ball in the solution. Apply the cotton ball on the wart and cover it with a bandage or a tape. Leave the cotton ball overnight on the wart-infected area. Remove the cotton ball and the bandage and repeat the process until the wart falls off.

A picture of a doctor examining marks on a patient's back.

See a Doctor about Genital Wart Removal

Genital warts are a sexually transmitted disease caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and can affect both men and women. Genital warts disappear without treatment, however, it takes time for them to completely disappear. Applying proper medication or trying out home remedies will take a few months to show its effects. You can remove warts through surgery. Seek medical help from your doctor if:

  • You suspect you have genital warts and need to get it diagnosed
  • You are bleeding from your genital area or find other symptoms such as itching and constant discharge
  • Warts have blocked your urethra making it difficult for you to urinate
  • You have a current or former sexual partner who has genital warts
  • A young child shows signs of genital warts (which can be contracted through sexual abuse)

How Are Skin Tags Mistaken for Genital Warts?

There are chances of skin tags being mistaken for genital warts as they both are skin ailments and are small in size. While skin tags are a harmless growth of excessive skin, genital warts are a disease that can be contracted from someone who already has them. Skin tags appear on the end of a stalk whereas genital warts are a bump on the skin.

Skin tags can be left alone but if they are present in a visible area then it may need to be surgically removed or be treated by applying medications or home remedies. Genital warts need treatment and should be diagnosed by a doctor as they appear in a sensitive area and can be painful.

Will Skin Tag or Cutaneous Wart Removal Leave a Scar?

Skin tags or warts may be an eyesore to look at and you may want to get rid of them as soon as possible. But you have to follow the right method in removing warts or skin tags. Try out home remedies or over-the-counter ointments to treat skin ailments. Avoid cutting off a wart or a soft bump as it will result in scars and excessive bleeding.

Freezing a Wart: Cryotherapy is an effective method in removing warts or skin tags from your body. Freezing a wart or a soft wart will render it inactive as the cold will weaken it and make it fall off your body.

Applying Cream and Ointment: Creams and ointment slowly wear off skin tags and warts on your body without leaving any scars.

Once you have used the proper treatment to treat your body of warts or skin tags, make sure you take care of your skin by washing it regularly. Scabs that are left behind after warts disappear protect your skin till it heals completely and should not be forcibly pulled apart.

When Should Treatment Be Avoided?

If you have any doubts when treating soft fibromas, or a wart, always consult with your doctor. There are times when even doctors cannot diagnose your warts after a biopsy, in such cases it is preferred to avoid treating a wart or a skin tag.

Avoid treating warts in an area that is highly sensitive or difficult to access. Sometimes, genital warts grow in places that cannot be operated on, in such cases try out other methods such as freezing off the wart. It is recommended not to perform surgery on skin tags that grow on your buttocks or groin as a treatment in such sensitive areas can be painful.

Which groups are at risk?

We have identified the following groups of people that are most likely to develop skin tags and warts.

For skin tags:

  • Obese people
  • People with Type 2 Diabetes
  • Elderly people
  • Pregnant and menopause women
  • People with other skin conditions, including seborrheic keratosis, melanocytic nevus and neurofibroma
  • Men and women with cardiovascular disease
  • Individuals with abnormal lipid profile

For warts:

  • Persons, who have HPV
  • People, whose blood contains any other types of viruses

Which body parts are most exposed to skin tags and warts?

Even though most warts, just like skin tags (also known as benign- growths or tumors) look like harmless growths that appear out of the blue, they cause a tone of insecurities about one`s appearance irrespectively of age and gender. While common warts are mostly caused by different variations of viruses, such as HPV, or clothing frictions, that affect the top layer of the skin, many benign tumors are caused by obesity, diabetes type 2 or aging. Some scientists argue that HPV is ubiquitous just because every person comes in contact with HPV throughout one`s life.  Therefore, we can conclude that one of the most common places to develop warts may be your hands, just because they come in contact with so many areas that may potentially cause the human papillomavirus such as shaking hands, typing on keyboards and ringing door bells. Nowadays more than 100 types of virus have been identified, meaning that most people are likely to experience warts at some point in their life and most likely on their hands. Most common places to develop the skin tags include neck, underarms, around the groin, or under the breasts. Sometimes they can grow on the eyelids or under the folds of the buttocks. Some skin growths may develop as a part of the skin’s reaction to irritating substances or friction such as jewelry or tight clothing on places that are most exposed to it.

Certain forms of the virus are more likely to cause skin warts on the hands. Other forms of HPV may cause genital warts, although some strains of the virus can cause both.

Genetic predisposition to skin tags

According to some scientists and doctors, certain genetic disorders may lead to a predisposition to developing benign growths. Some doctors and dermatologists claim that people who suffer from the Birt-Hogg-Dube (BHD) syndrome and tuberous sclerosis tend to develop acrochordons in large amounts. Sometimes they tend to form a ‘necklace’ like shape around the neck.

How to prevent skin tags and warts?

Not only will the ways to treat the existing warts and skin tags be examined in this article, but also the ways to prevent them from growing. Having identified the reasons and key risk groups, we can conclude that the following steps will be helpful to see the difference and improve the skin condition for those, who tend to suffer from all types of warts and benign growths:

  • Schedule a monthly/quarterly check-up with your dermatologist
  • Ask your dermatologist for alternatives, in case the precsribed medicine does not work
  • Try to lose weight or at least try to keep it stable
  • Change your jewelry and clothing to new, comfortable ones
  • Warts are contagious and easily transmitted, therefore be cautious and avoid physical contact with people who have them
  • If you already have some warts, avoid rubbing onto or irritating them in any way

Last updated on November 14th, 2020

aaom.org Team

Academic Association of Medicine is the go-to resource for all health-related issues. We are an independent body that seeks to offer general information on various health topics and unbiased reviews on health products.

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