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Anyone can get anal skin tags. However, they are more prevalent in those who are obese or those who suffer from chronic bowel problems such as Crohn’s disease. Women who are pregnant are a higher risk for skin tags because of the hormone fluctuations during pregnancy. There is some evidence to support the idea that skin tags may be hereditary. Anal skin tags may also occur as a result of an inflammatory lesion, anal injury or trauma. They can also occur when an external haemorrhoid swells. Although the haemorrhoid usually shrinks down in time, loose skin at the anus may be left, leaving anal skin tags. On occasion, anal skin tags occur in association with other bowel problems such as Crohn’s disease.
Most anal skin tags are symptom free and most people who have them only become aware of the tag when they wipe themselves after using the toilet or when washing. However they can be a symptom of a blocked anal gland which if left untreated the gland can fill and develop into an abscess. Some anal skin tags can cause problems, such as anal itching and if the tag does cause pain then medical advice should be sought as it could be the symptom of an underlying medical problem.
When you are seen in clinic the consultant will take a full history and carry out a clinical examination. Usually this will involve a rigid sigmoidoscopy and sometimes a proctoscopy as well.
If you are over the age of 40 and have had any bleeding or change in bowel habit the consultant may recommend endoscopic examination of the bowel either by flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy to ensure that it is otherwise healthy. Sometimes a biopsy of the anal skin may be required before treating the skin tags.
A commonly used technique for treating/ removing skin tags in the anal area is ligation. This involves cutting off the blood supply to the skin tag. Alternatively, surgery can be performed to remove the tags along with all excess skin to
minimise the risk of new skin tags developing in the future. Tags will therefore be cut out and a small flat area of skin will remain where the tag was leaving a small raw patch of skin which will heal on its own. During the healing phase the wound will be sore and care should be taken passing stools.
Your GP will be able to make a referral for you to be seen by a colorectal specialist such as the surgeons at the Glasgow Colorectal Centre. The specialist will perform a full assessment and advise on whether further investigations are necessary or if you are suitable to proceed directly to removal.
If you have any additional questions about anal skin tags or other colorectal issues, your own GP is often the best first port of call.
If appropriate, they will be able to arrange a referral to a colorectal specialist centre such as the Glasgow Colorectal Centre.