Anal skin tags are noncancerous growths of excess skin that form around the anus or rectum. They typically measure a few millimeters or less and are skin-colored or slightly darker. Surgery can remove them if necessary.

Skin tags, or acrochordons, are common skin growths that most often develop in skin folds, such as the neck, armpits, groin, and anus.

A doctor may also call them perianal skin tags, hypertrophied papillae, or fibroepithelial polyps. People may not notice them as they are typically painless or cause minor symptoms, such as itchiness.

Some people may want to remove anal skin tags for cosmetic reasons or because of symptoms. However, people should not attempt to remove them at home. Only a qualified healthcare professional should remove anal skin tags to avoid potential complications.

This article explores why skin tags develop around the anus, how a doctor can diagnose and remove them, and how to prevent them.

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As with skin tags on other areas of the body, anal skin tags are usually harmless, and a dermatologist can remove them.

However, it is not advisable to try removing anal skin tags at home, as doing so can cause pain and other complications. Many at-home removal methods are not proven safe for skin tags, especially in this sensitive area.

Also, not all anal skin tags need removal, even by a professional. Occasionally, removal may cause a risk of injury or infection because of the proximity to bacteria in stool.

Before someone undergoes the removal process, they should discuss the risks and benefits with a doctor. Some more dangerous growths, such as skin cancer, can look like anal skin tags, so it is essential to get any unusual growth checked by a doctor.

Although skin tags are common, some people may be genetically prone to them.

When skin tags form around the anus, one or more of the following factors may be involved:

  • Friction or irritation: Skin tags tend to develop in creases and areas of friction. An anal skin tag may develop due to friction from exercise, prolonged sitting, or tight clothing.
  • Diarrhea: Recurrent loose stools can irritate the skin around the anus, as a person wipes the area more frequently with rough toilet paper.
  • Constipation: Straining to accommodate large or hard stools can put pressure on the anus, leading to bulging blood vessels. If the skin does not return to its original shape after straining or stretching, skin tags can develop.
  • Scarring: Anal skin tags can appear following scarring after the anus heals from other conditions, such as anal fissures.
  • Hemorrhoids: These are swollen and inflamed veins in the anus or rectum. Hemorrhoids are common, affecting millions of Americans. As hemorrhoids heal and the vein shrinks, some stretched-out skin may remain, which can form a skin tag.
  • Crohn’s disease: This condition involves inflammation of the intestines, which can lead to diarrhea, constipation, and other symptoms. A 2019 article suggests perianal skin tags occur in up to 70% of people with Crohn’s disease.

When a skin tag is easily visible, a doctor can diagnose it with a physical exam and, if necessary, discuss removal options. In other cases, a doctor may need to examine the inside of the rectum to check for growths.

A doctor can perform this procedure using an anoscopy, where they place a small scope inside the anus and use a lighted tube to see inside the rectum. Some people may feel discomfort during this process, but lubrication may prevent this.

When a doctor needs to see further into the lower digestive tract, they may perform a sigmoidoscopy. This involves using a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera to view the rectum and lower portion of the colon.

A sigmoidoscopy is not always necessary after diagnosing an anal skin tag. A doctor may perform this if they suspect a person has growths or polyps in the bowel.

It may not be safe or necessary to remove an anal skin tag. A doctor will describe the risks and determine the best course of action.

Initially, they may try to treat any underlying causes of the anal skin tags, such as hemorrhoids. Then, similar to skin tags elsewhere on the body, a doctor may consider surgically removing the anal skin tag.

Techniques a doctor typically uses to remove skin tags include:

  • scissor excision
  • electrocautery — burning the skin tag off
  • cryosurgery — freezing the skin tag

Do they bleed?

Anal skin tags should not cause pain or bleeding. However, they may bleed after removal. A healthcare professional will take steps to minimize bleeding, such as applying pressure and monitoring the site.

A person should not try to remove an anal skin tag at home, as this can lead to bleeding, pain, and infection.

If a person suspects they have an anal skin tag, they should see a doctor to rule out the presence of cancer or another condition.

After the removal procedure, a person should try to relax and avoid strenuous exercise or heavy lifting. Typically, a person can return to work the following day and resume normal activities within a week.

People should follow their doctor’s aftercare advice, as this can speed up recovery and prevent infections. Sometimes, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics, antifungal cream, and topical pain medication, which can help promote healing and decrease discomfort.

They may also advise using laxatives or trying a liquid diet to help make passing stools easier. Additionally, they may suggest using medical wipes to clean the anal area thoroughly after bowel movements.

It is not always possible to prevent skin tags. However, the following tips may help reduce their occurrence:

Below are some common questions about skin tags on the anus.

Is it normal to have a skin tag on the anus?

Skin tags may affect 50–60% of adults and are more common in areas where the skin folds, including the groin and anus.

Can a skin tag be a hemorrhoid?

Skin tags and hemorrhoids are different things. However, skin tags may look similar to external hemorrhoids and skin tags can occur after an external hemorrhoid heals if the skin remains stretched.

How long does it take for a skin tag on the anus to heal after removal?

Most people can return to typical activities within a week of anal skin tag removal. However, complications such as infection may increase a person’s recovery time.

Anal skin tags are relatively common and not usually a cause for concern. They typically do not require removal, but a doctor may agree to remove them if they are causing symptoms such as pain or irritation.

A doctor can correctly diagnose an anal skin tag and discuss removal options if they think it is appropriate.

People can try to prevent anal skin tags by wearing underwear that fits well, maintaining good anal health, and sustaining a moderate weight.