What’s the Link Between Skin Tags and Diabetes?

Overview

Diabetes is a long-term condition that occurs when there’s too much sugar in your bloodstream because your body is unable to process it correctly.

In a person without diabetes, the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin to help move sugar into the cells of the body. In someone with diabetes, the pancreas either doesn’t make enough insulin, or the body doesn’t use it as well as it should. Because of this, the sugar builds up in the blood.

Skin tags are small growths on the skin that hang from stalks. They are medically harmless, but they may be irritating. Because of this, some people choose to have them removed.

Those with diabetes may develop skin tags, but these growths also related to a number of other conditions and lifestyle factors. So if you get skin tags, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have diabetes. However, if skin tags do appear, it’s a good idea to see your doctor. They may recommend testing for diabetes.

What does the research say?

A 2007 study found that there was an increased risk of diabetes in people who had multiple skin tags. It was recommended that healthcare providers suspect diabetes in people with skin tags.

A later study, in 2015, reached the same conclusions, which strengthened the link.

A more recent study concluded that skin tags were an indicator for high cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.

What causes this?

The cause of skin tags in people with diabetes is unclear. It appears to be connected to the body’s resistance to insulin, but more research is needed to confirm this. People who are overweight are also prone to developing skin tags. Obesity is also linked to diabetes, so this could be another factor in a person developing skin tags.

Treatment for skin tags

Skin tags are entirely harmless, so there is no medical need to have them treated. However, some people find them to be irritating or want them removed for cosmetic reasons.

The best option may be to have your doctor remove skin tags for you. There are a number of methods for doing so:

  • surgical removal (using scissors or a scalpel to remove the skin tag)
  • cryotherapy (freezing the skin tag with liquid nitrogen)
  • ligation (tying surgical thread around the base of the skin tag and cutting off its blood supply)
  • electrosurgery (using high-frequency electrical energy to burn the skin tag)

Some people find natural remedies to be effective in skin tag removal, but the effectiveness of these remedies has never been studied. Some natural remedies claimed to be helpful are apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, and lemon juice.

With any of these methods, there is a risk of infection. This is worth considering because infections can be more damaging for people with diabetes. Trying to remove the skin tags yourself increases the risk of infection.

If your skin tags are related to diabetes, you might find with stabilized insulin that the skin tags clear and don’t recurred as frequently. This might be a preferable option to removal, as it avoids risk of infection.

Also, while skin tags don’t recur after removal, you might find that new ones grow nearby, if you haven’t treated the root cause of the problem.

The takeaway

Research suggests that people with diabetes are more likely to develop skin tags than others. However, this doesn’t mean that if you have skin tags, you have diabetes. Skin tags are related to a number of other conditions.

You should see your healthcare provider if you develop skin tags. Your doctor may want to test for diabetes to rule this out as a cause. Be particularly vigilant about visiting your doctor if you have any other risk factors for diabetes, such as being overweight or having a familial history.

If you opt to have your skin tags removed, be mindful of the risk of infection and have your doctor complete the procedure.

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