Skin Tag Versus Genital Wart

Skin tag versus genital wart is an essential discussion since most people have difficulties distinguishing these conditions. It is quite challenging to differentiate them since they are identical to the untrained eye.

It’s crucial to understand the two conditions. Skin tags can be eliminated using over-the-counter medication while genital warts require doctors’ prescriptions. In this article, we’ll provide an in-depth analysis of these similar conditions.

What are skin tags?

Skin tags are malignant tumors that develop on the skin. They are tiny out-pouching of skin connected by a small stalk to the underlying surface. They are not dangerous but are removed for cosmetic reasons.

They resemble tiny bits of hanging skin that develop in folds or creases of the skin. They are prevalent in areas where skin rubs with other skin or clothing. They can be as small as pinheads or grow to become as large as grapes. Skin tags are not contagious.

Skin tags can develop on any body part including the neck, underarms, upper chest and groin. Almost everyone develops a skin tag at one point in their lifetime. However, they are more common in adults. Sometimes skin tags are referred to as soft warts although they are not an accurate representation of true warts.

What are Genital Warts?

Genital warts are gray, brown, pink, or flesh-colored soft growths that appear in the anal and genital areas in both men and women. Sometimes they’re referred to as venereal warts or condyloma acuminate. Human papillomavirus causes genital warts. They are the most common sexually-transmitted diseases. They can occur at any age but are prevalent in people between the ages of 17 to 33 years.

Genital warts are extremely contagious. A single contact with an infected person is enough to be infected. In young children, warts are thought to be transmitted by nonsexual methods like manual contact. Nonetheless, it may raise suspicion for sexual. Approximately 20% of individuals infected with warts have other sexually transmitted infections.

Genital warts cause discomfort, pain and itching. They are dangerous in women since some types of human papillomavirus can cause vulva and cervix cancer. Treatment is essential in the management of this infection. Genital warts grow on specific body parts. They appear as one swelling or in a small cluster. They resemble a small cauliflower which is a visible way of distinguishing them from skin tags.

Causes of Skin Tags and Genital Warts

The real cause of skin tags remains unknown while that of genital warts is the human papillomavirus. Skin tags develop when blood vessels and collagen clusters are trapped in thicker parts of the skin. Tags are common and prevalent in individuals above 50 years while warts get transmitted sexually hence not very common.

Some people may inherit a heightened vulnerability to skin tags while warts are not hereditary. Tags arise from skin rubbing against the skin in the areas that have skin folds while warts get rarely transmitted through contact.

Skin tags are associated with hyperinsulinemia that occurs when the blood has excess insulin. On the other hand, genital warts get associated with two particular types of the virus (HPV-6 and -11).

Although tags can develop on anybody, they are common among persons with diabetes, pregnant women and overweight individuals. Genital warts commonly affect individuals who are sexually active, especially, those with multiple partners.

The use of steroids and hormonal fluctuations can cause skin tags to develop. In rare cases, tags are associated with human papillomavirus.

Symptoms of Skin Tags and Genital Warts

  • Skin tags are common around the neck, under the arms, groin and eyelids. Genital warts are common in the groin and anal areas only.
  • Tags are soft and fleshy growths that are not contagious while warts are flesh, brown or pink-colored and contagious.
  • Tags are joined to the underneath skin by a thin stalk while warts are raised, flat or shaped like a cauliflower.
  • Genital warts may cause discomforts and irritation due to their location, size and itching.
  • Tags have no discharge while warts cause discharge in the genitalia area.
  • Skin tags are small but may enlarge to the size of grapes while genital warts grow to resemble cauliflowers.
  • Skin tags appear as one growth while genital warts may appear alone or in clusters.
  • Skin tags are not associated with any other health conditions or infections while genital warts are related to various sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

Diagnosis of Skin Tag versus Genital Warts

Skin Tag

Diagnosis of skin tags is primarily done through observation. They have a unique appearance. Lab tests and additional diagnostic studies are not required. In rare cases, your doctor may advise that a skin tag be excised and sent to the lab for microscopic diagnosis. This additional diagnosis rules out other skin conditions that resemble skin tags, for example, benign skin growths, types of moles, and warts.

Genital Warts

Genital warts diagnosis is based on findings from the appearance and medical history of a patient. Lesions are sometimes visible using an enhancing technique known as aceto-whitening. When 5% acetic acid solution is applied to a suspect sample for 5-10 minutes, white coloration confirms the infection.

Pap smear can be done to identify any HPV infection and abnormal cervix cells. Using a scope may be essential to see genital warts lesions through colposcopy process. A colposcopy may be used in women to look for injuries in the vaginal canal and around the cervix.

A biopsy may then be recommended if the identified lesions appear unusual or recur after treatment. Specialized and advanced laboratory tests can also get used to confirm the presence of an HPV infection.

How to Treat Skin Tags

The method of treatment used depends on the location of the skin tag. Skin tags are treated or removed for cosmetic and aesthetic reasons. Most of those that are removed occur on the face, particularly around the eyelids. Others are eliminated if they appear in an area prone to friction that can cause excessive irritation or bleeding. Some of them include:

  • Cryosurgery method: involves super-freezing the skin, can be used to treat tags.
  • Cauterization procedure: destroys the tissue by burning. In cases where the skin tag is hanging, it can be cut off using medical scissors.
  • Ligation: treats by interrupting blood supply to the affected area. Little or no recovery time is necessary after treatment.

You can ignore a skin tag if it’s not bothersome. However, it’s recommended to consult a dermatologist or physician whenever a skin tag changes in appearance. Tie a dental floss or a thin cotton thread around the base of the tag to remove if it is small. This process cuts off blood supply to the tag making it fall off after ten days. Over-the-counter drugs are also available. It is advisable to seek professional advice before using any treatments.

How to treat genital warts

Since genital warts have no symptoms except their appearance, there is no need for home treatment. But, it’s vital to recognize their existence. Avoid trauma in the affected area. Avoid touching warts to prevent bleeding and transmission to your partner. No single form of cure is considered effective in the treatment of genital warts.

Several treatment options exist although none guarantees warts from recurring. Warts can go away in about 10 to 20% of the infected people after three to four months. Treatments include:

  • Cryotherapy: used to freeze warts using liquid nitrogen. It is the most preferred treatment method since it is highly effective with few side effects.
  • Laser treatment: recommended for extensive or recurrent genital warts. Laser obliterates HPV-induced lesion. Local, regional, or general anesthesia is required. This method can be expensive, needs lengthy healing time, and may leave some scars.
  • Electrodesiccation: uses an electric current to get rid of warts. Local anesthesia may be required as well.


Prevention of skin tags is not wholly possible although it’s advisable to lose weight to reduce the possibility of occurrence.

One can reduce the risk of genital warts by maintaining a monogamous relationship. Condoms protect the covered areas only which makes them inefficient in preventing warts. HPV vaccines protect against a variety of the virus’ strains that cause genital warts.

Skin tags and genital warts may be similar in appearance initially, but they should never be confused with each other. Genital warts are contagious and dangerous while skin tags can be harmless. Nevertheless, whenever you get such infections, consult a doctor to be safe.