What are anal skin tags and what do they look like?

Typical appearance of a treatable skin tag

Anal skin tags are shapeless flaps or lumps of flesh usually found on the rim of the anus – medically speaking: Where the inside of the anorectal canal becomes the outside of the body.

Anal skin tags are an extremely common condition and are often found in conjunction with other disorders or problems. They are not contagious and may occur alone or in multiples.

Anal skin tags are frequently confused with other anorectal conditions such as hemorrhoids which tend to be much bigger, or anal warts. Lots and lots in a small area may suggest anal warts rather than anal skin tags.

An anal skin tag is not cancerous, nor have skin tags ever been found to become cancerous over time.

Confused about skin tags? What they look like? What to do? When we talk about ANAL skin tags we are normally referring to one of three types:

    • Anal skin tags that are flaps of skin often left over from severe hemorrhoids and can only really be treated by surgically removing them if you were so desperate. Medical photo and picture of this type of anal skin tags can be found here, courtesy of a chap with Crohn’s disease.  Very graphic anal skin tag picture. Of course, some people’s skin tags look quite different to someone with Crohn’s disease, normally people will just have a skin tag or two and be much smaller. You can also see some of these type of skin tags on this how to treat your hemorrhoids page as well – it’s the last photo in the Venapro treatment series. If you want to see that picture of skin tags close up then our page on Venapro hemorrhoid treatment has the same photo but much bigger.
    • The other type of anal skin tag is commonly known by the medical names of “cutaneous papillomae” and “acrochordon”. So they are terms you may hear from your doctor when he tells you you have skin tags. Such a skin tag normally grows over time from a small lump of a tiny pimple size, to a larger lump that is hanging growing from your skin by a narrower area of skin. Like a ball on a small rope, is the easiest visual image I can give you about how this type of anal skin tag looks, but the picture top left shows one. More pictures of this type of skin tag, can be found on SkinTagTags.com and the skin tag pictures there are very professional and very zoomed in – did them myself. These types of skin tags can be found anywhere on the body, so you can also find them on the buttocks, armpits, genital areas, breasts… These types of skin tags are the most amenable for treatment at home.
  • The third type of anal skin tag is called a sentinel skin tag. They get their name because they “stand up” almost as if keeping guard over the site of the problem at the anal rim. They normally grow when the anal rim has been damaged and if this anal skin tag is painful it normally indicates that a problem is lurking down there that needs a doctors examination. These skin tags do not grow anywhere else – only on the anal rim apparaently. The cause needs to be fixed, and the skin tags would most likely need surgery to remove. Several sentinel skin tags can be seen on our hemorrhoid pictures page.
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What causes skin tags?

Anal skin tags usually start due to an anorectal injury, trauma, or inflammatory lesion. That is the area around the rim of the anus takes damage of some sort. For example, if an external hemorrhoid swells up large and is cured at home without surgery, the hemorrhoid may leave a skin tag behind.

If the conditions are right, this skin tag may turn into an even larger external hemorrhoid because of the skin tag’s proximity to the original blood vessel and it represents an area that a hemorrhoid can easily grow back into.

Anal skin tags can also grow from the traumatized skin edges left after anal surgery.

Sentinel skin tags are a specific and common variety of anal skin tag that occur at the lower border of any anal infection or injury.

Another little known cause of the development of skin tags in general, may be tight fitting clothing.  For example, if the undies are too tight, they bite into the skin, creating conditions ripe for developing a skin tag or more.

Anal skin tags can also be a symptom of a blocked anal gland, which is a problem that should be looked at by a doctor before the gland fills up and turns into an abscess.


Anal Skin Tag Symptoms

Anal skin tags don’t have many symptoms. Most people only become aware of their presence when felt during wiping.

If any anal skin tag does start hurting, it’s a symptom of an underlying problem and should probably be seen by a doctor to determine the exact cause.

However, anal skin tags can cause a few problems apart from pain, such as anal itching. If fecal matter gets trapped underneath a skin tag, the resultant skin irritation can be quite annoying. Scratching will only make the problem worse though. Instead, if you suffer from anal skin tags, learn to clean thoroughly and gently with either plain water or a non-irritating cleanser such as witch hazel or aloe vera extract. So hygiene is important to minimize the symptoms.

In addition, wearing loose cotton underwear and avoiding tight clothing will ensure that the skin tags don’t get irritated and inflamed by any normal, everyday activities.


Anal skin tags aren’t dangerous in and of themselves.

No skin tag has ever been cancerous, nor has one ever become cancerous over time, though it’s good to bear in mind, that any area of skin may develop a cancer.

However, anal skin tags can both cause anxiety and lead to further complications in the anal area, so they should be either monitored carefully or surgically removed.


Anal Skin Tag Treatment

When tags cause itching, pain, anxiety or hygienic problems, they can be biopsied to ensure their identity and then removed.

At home anal skin tag treatment

It was once thought that skin tags could not be treated or removed at home, but, as you can see above, there is now a commercially available product for the job of reducing skin tags at home, anal or otherwise. Apart from cosmetic reasons, unless skin tags are causing you problems or are prone to complications, they do not need to be removed.

Anal skin tag surgery

When small they can be removed easily under local anesthetic at a doctor’s office on an outpatient basis. However, if they’re either large or extensive, they must be surgically removed in an operating theater while under general anesthetic. Laser surgery has offered great success in removing them while resurfacing the skin to appear normal, but is no less risky or time consuming than scalpel surgery. Surgery for anal tags is usually not covered by major medical insurance because it’s frequently seen as cosmetic instead of necessary surgery. However, if there is some sort of complication associated with the skin tag, this may push it over into the realm of necessary surgery, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about your insurance prior to signing off on the surgical procedure.

In addition, any anal surgery can carry some significant risks, such as shock, infection, post-operative bleeding, and anal sphincter damage leading to long-term fecal incontinence. You need to be aware of these risks and talk them over with your regular doctor and your surgeon prior to going in for surgery.

Furthermore, anal surgery usually causes an intense amount of post-operative pain and activity restriction, so you’ll need to plan to get both emotional and physical support and care for at least a couple of weeks after the surgery is complete.


Anal Skin Tags in Conclusion

Whether you decide to have anal skin tags surgically removed or to leave them under your watchful eye, at no time should your quality of life suffer because of them.

If you don’t know what the fleshy lump is, take it in to a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

If the doctor says it’s a skin tag, get as much information as you can and make an educated decision on your preferred course of treatment. We have also prepared another site, devoted just to skin tags, which you may like to visit, it covers skin tags a bit more in depth

Research and main write by Loni L. Ice, quality control, editing and additional writing by D. S. Urquhart.

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