What is a hymenal tag?
The hymen is a thin membrane that covers the opening to the vagina. Hymenal tags are outgrowths of extra hymen tissue. These tags usually stick off the edge of the hymen.
They’re often confused for hymenal polyps, which are stalk-like growths on the hymen.
Hymenal tags can also refer to tissue that remains after the hymen breaks. These tags are almost always benign, and they usually don’t cause any discomfort. However, if the tags linger — or appear later in life — removal procedures are available.
Keep reading to learn more about why these tags form, what to expect from removal, and more.
Tips for identification
Hymenal tags are located at the external entrance to the vagina. Most hymenal tags escape detection because they’re so small.
If you do notice tiny pieces of extra skin in this area, they may be hymenal tags. They come in many different variations, but are often the same color as the surrounding skin. Some tags may be slightly darker.
In some cases, the tags may resemble a small, stalk-like growth. This is why they’re often confused with hymenal polyps. It’s important to remember that tags offshoot from the edge of the hymen while polyps form on the hymen itself.
Although hymenal tags usually don’t cause symptoms, irritation is possible. This could be due to friction from your underwear, masturbation, or sex.
If irritation is severe, the tag may swell. This can give the impression that the tag has grown. If you’re experiencing swelling or other discomfort, see your doctor for diagnosis.
What causes these tags and who’s at risk?
Researchers aren’t sure what can cause hymenal tags to develop in utero.
They do know that remnants of the hymn often remain after the hymen breaks. These remnants are considered hymenal tags. A break may be caused by:
- a hard fall or other injury
- penetrative sex or masturbation
- tampon use
- riding a horse, bicycle, or any other activity involving straddling
Hymenal tags may also change or appear as a result of childbirth. Women who give birth vaginally may experience tearing in the hymenal tissue. The tissue may heal into a different shape than before, giving the appearance of tags.
Women who previously had hymenal tags may find that these remnants are gone after vaginal delivery. This could be a result of the baby pushing through the vagina, disrupting and tearing these tissues.
How are these tags diagnosed?
See your doctor if you think you’re experiencing hymenal tags. They can usually diagnose them on sight during a physical exam.
If it isn’t clear where the tags originated, or if they extend further into your vagina, your doctor may perform additional testing.
- pelvic exam
- Pap smear
These tests will help your doctor confirm the tissue is a hymenal tag, hymenal polyp, or a sign of another underlying condition.
Is treatment necessary?
Often, hymenal tags or polyps that are present at birth will shrink and disappear without treatment.
Tags that appear later in life may also disappear on their own. Treatment usually isn’t necessary unless you begin to experience swelling or other discomfort.
In mild or infrequent cases, your doctor will likely recommend home care. This may include:
- taking an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever
- applying a cold compress
- avoiding strenuous activity unless the symptoms subside
If you have severe or persistent symptoms, your doctor may recommend a minor surgical procedure to remove the tags.
If you aren’t experiencing symptoms but want them removed for cosmetic reasons, talk with your doctor. They can discuss the procedure and advise you on next steps.
What to expect from removal
- sweatpants or leggings to wear home
- panty liner or light pad to soak up any spotting
- over-the-counter pain reliever
Hymenal tag removal can be done at your doctor’s office. It usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes, and you can go home afterward.
Your doctor will likely have you lay back with your knees up and heels in stirrups, as you would for a pelvic exam. From there, they’ll clean the area with a cotton swab and inject a local aesthetic. You may feel a slight pinch during the injection.
Once the area is numb, your doctor will use a sterile surgical tool to cut the tag off of the surrounding skin. After they’re done, they may apply a chemical to help stop any bleeding before they clean the area. A bandage or dressing usually isn’t needed.
Aftercare and recovery
You might experience some mild discomfort or spotting after the procedure, but you should be able to resume your usual activities.
You can wear a panty liner or light pad to manage any spotting. Taking an OTC pain reliever may make you more comfortable.
Unless your doctor says otherwise, you should be able to wash the area as you normally would. Sticking to fragrance-free soaps can help prevent irritation. Gently pat — don’t rub — the area dry.
You should be able to use a tampon, have sex, or engage in other activities as soon as you feel up to it, but confirm this with your doctor. They may advise you to wait for a few days to be on the safe side.
If you have any questions about what you should or shouldn’t do while you heal, call your doctor’s office.
Hymenal tags are extremely common — most women aren’t even aware they have them.
Tags usually don’t cause any symptoms, but when they do, it’s usually in form of mild swelling or light bleeding. This typically results from the tag getting caught or torn during intercourse or other physical activity.
If you’re unsure of what’s causing your symptoms, see your doctor. They can also answer any questions you have about treatment or removal options.