Know the Difference: Moles, Warts and Skin Tags

Skin growths like moles, warts and skin tags can be a little confusing to differentiate. Which of these three are naturally-occurring and which are not? Which ones should worry you, and which ones could be left alone? Here’s how to tell the difference between moles, warts and skin tags:

Moles – Moles are slow-forming skin growths that are usually pigmented. These appear naturally on your skin as you grow older. However, some people are a bit more predisposed to develop them, and this predisposition is stimulated by sun exposure. Some moles can have hair follicles. They can be raised or be flat, and can vary in pigmentation. The one thing to look out for is if your moles begin to rapidly change. This could signal that they are pre-cancerous or cancerous, and would have to be treated by a dermatologist. It’s important to keep track of your moles to see if there are any sudden changes.

Warts – Warts are caused by a virus, meaning they are contagious. They are spread by coming in contact with an infected person, or item (like a towel). They are characterized by occurring as a hard bump that lie deep in your skin. They might be smooth on top, but they are also thick, scaly and feel like a callus. Warts should be treated by a dermatologist because the underlying virus needs to be taken care of first, otherwise these bumps will keep popping up. A common way to treat warts is freezing them. This also kills the cells that contain the wart virus.

Skin Tags – Skin tags are raised flaps of skin that form from friction. They appear on places on your skin that are always affected by friction. This means areas where the skin folds (armpits are a common place for skin tags to appear), or where your skin rubs against an external item, like clothing (skin tags are also common around the neck area as the collar of shirts can rub against the skin on this area). They form because the skin clumps up into a snowball until a “pedestal” base appears. This is the differentiating characteristic between a skin tag and a mole. They can be come irritated and can bleed, and hurt. Skin tags can be easily removed by a dermatologist

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