What Is a Perianal Skin Tag?

Clara Kedrek

A perianal skin tag is an excess growth of skin that is located near the anus. The growth projects away from the surface of the skin, assuming a tag-like appearance. Although some patients do not experience any symptoms in association with these skin growths, others can experience pain and itchiness. The treatment for a skin tag focuses on removing the growth and ensuring that it does not represent a more malignant disease process, such as a cancer.

Raised skin mole.
Raised skin mole.

Although they are considered to be abnormal growths, perianal skin tags are not malignant or cancerous in nature, and the skin cells present within the tags are completely normal. These growths can develop at any location around the anus, but more commonly occur toward the back of the anus, closer to the tailbone. They can range in size from less than 1 inch (2.54 cm) to approximately 2 inches (5.08 cm).

Raised skin tags.
Raised skin tags.

Patients can experience a variety of symptoms as a result of having a skin tag. They could have itchiness or pain at the site of the skin growth. Occasionally, fecal matter can accumulate around the skin tag, causing irritation. Other patients have no symptoms resulting from their skin tags, and might only notice their presence incidentally.

The overuse of laxatives by a person with an eating disorder may cause hemorrhoids, which can be mistaken for perianal skin tags.
The overuse of laxatives by a person with an eating disorder may cause hemorrhoids, which can be mistaken for perianal skin tags.

Although sometimes perianal skin tags develop for no apparent reason, in other cases they appear as complications from other disease. Patients with hemorrhoids can develop these growths as a result of straining and irritation. Often the skin tags develop associated with an anal fissure, which is a superficial tear in the external surface of the anal skin tissue. People suffering from inflammatory bowel disease are at an increased risk for developing these growths.

It's common for a patient with hemorrhoids to develop a perianal skin tag due to irritation.
It's common for a patient with hemorrhoids to develop a perianal skin tag due to irritation.

Diagnosing a patient with a skin tag is typically done on the basis of visual inspection. Other diseases that could mimic anal tags include anal warts, skin cancer, and hemorrhoids. It is important for the health care professional examining the perianal skin tag to thoroughly examine the surrounding area to look for other abnormalities including anal fissures and fistulas, which are abnormal connections between the gastrointestinal tract and external skin that can result in leakage of fecal matter and an increased risk for infection.

The mainstay of treatment of a perianal skin tag is surgical removal. Sometimes this procedure can be performed as an in-office procedure not requiring hospitalization or general anesthesia. Often the skin tag that has been removed is sent to a pathologist for a microscopic review of cells making up the skin tag to assure that it does not represent another more dangerous pathologic process, such as a skin cancer.

Surgical scissors may be used to remove skin tags.
Surgical scissors may be used to remove skin tags.

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Discussion Comments


@croydon - They do use what's call surgical ligation, which essentially means tying off the skin tag so it can't get blood supply.

I imagine that's what they'd normally do to remove genital and perianal skin tags if necessary, although if there's no health problem with them, there's no point. People shouldn't get too obsessed with looking perfect down there.


@pastanaga - I thought the Outlander books are a romance series? That doesn't seem very romantic! But it is the way they often deal with hemorrhoids even today. I mean, most doctors would prefer that they go away by themselves with the right diet, of course, because any other option can be fairly dangerous, but they are so painful that often they need to take measures. So, they will put a special kind of rubber band around them to make them fall off when the blood supply stops.

I wonder if they can do that with normal skin tags. They usually seem to just remove normal skin tags with the knife as far as I know (although they are usually harmless, so it's usually considered a cosmetic procedure).


One of my most vivid memories of the Outlander books (which is a series where a woman trained as a doctor goes back in time and lives in the colonial era) is when she has to diagnose a man who has severe hemorrhoids and figure out a way to treat them.

Normally, I guess the treatment for hemorrhoids is to just to push them back in and to try to get more fiber in your diet, but this man had them so severely that instead she chose removal of the skin tags. Instead of just slicing them off with a knife, which could cause infection in that day and age, she tied them all at the base with thread and allowed them to fall off over the course of a few days.

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