Skin Tags and Genital Warts: What’s the Difference?

Skin Tags and Genital Warts: What’s the Difference?

Skin tags and genital warts can look similar, so it’s very hard to tell them apart. However, skin tags are more common than genital warts and they can be harmless. Genital warts, on the other hand, are a serious disease. They can cause pain, discomfort and itching. Usually, the disease can be spread to others through sexual intercourse. Here are some differences between genital warts and skin tags that you should know.

Skin tags and genital warts: What are they?

Skin tags are very common. They can affect people of any age, but are most common in those after the ages of 50. The condition can appear almost anywhere on the body. They are described as benign, non-cancerous bumps that grow on the surface of the skin. Usually, skin tags are flesh-colored or a little darker. The condition is not dangerous, and don’t need to be removed.

Genital warts are also common. In the US, they affect more than 20 million people and have been considered the most common STI. The condition is most common among people between the ages of 16 and 24. Genital warts can appear in some specific parts of the body. They are often described as small, pink, brown or flesh-colored bumps on the skin. Usually they look like a cauliflower. Genital warts are not dangerous, but they need to be removed immediately. If left untreated, the condition can grow larger and spread to other people.  

Skin tags and genital warts

Skin tags

The difference between skin tags and genital warts

Due to looking similar, skin tags and genital warts can be mistaken. But, they still have some differences. For example:

1. Causes

The exact cause of skin tags is not clear. But, experts believe that the friction created by skin rubbing against skin could be a reason. Genital skin tags can occur during sexual intercourse. People with a family member who has skin tags can also develop them. Other factors that can contribute to the development of skin tags:

  • Hormonal changes
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Tight clothes
  • Genital piercing

Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus is super common and has more than 100 different types. Among these, only 30 to 40 types can affect the genitals. And, just some of these HPV types can lead to genital warts. HPV types 6 and 11 are the two most common that cause 90 percent of all cases of genital warts.

Some risks factors that can contribute to genital warts include:

  • Smoke
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Weak immune system
  • Child abuse history
  • Mother-to-child transmission of HPV

Read more: 6 Weird Ways You Can Get HPV without Having Sex.

Smoking and genital warts

Smoking and genital warts

2. Locations

As mentioned above, the most common cause of skin tags is friction. So, they mainly appear in some areas, such as:

  • Neck
  • Upper chest
  • Groin
  • Under the breasts
  • Armpits
  • Eyelids
  • The genital and anal region

Genital warts can affect men and women differently. Their locations can vary too.

In women, genital warts can appear:

  • On the cervix
  • Outside or inside of the vagina
  • Outside or inside of the anus

In men, genital warts can occur on the following areas:

  • Around or inside of the anus
  • Thighs
  • Groin
  • scrotum
  • Penis

Genital warts can also appear on the mouth, tongue, throat and lips. This may happen from having oral sex with someone who has genital warts.

Read more: 6 Reasons You Have Bumps “Down There”.

Difference between skin tags and genital warts

Different locations of skin tags and genital warts

3. Symptoms

Skin tags and genital warts can be confusing. But, some differences in symptoms as below can help you know if you have a skin tag or a genital wart.

Symptoms of skin tags

  • Redness
  • Repeat irritation in the affected area
  • Dead skin tissue
  • Pain or discomfort during friction

Symptoms of genital warts

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Bleeding
  • Vaginal discharge

Read more: HPV Tests for Women and Men.

4. Transmission

There is no evidence that skin tags can be contagious. However, genital warts are different from skin tags. They are contagious and they can be transferred in some ways. For example:

  • Genital warts can spread from person to person. This occurs through sexual intercourse or skin contact with an infected person.
  • Genital warts spread to other parts of the body. This happens when you pick at, touch or scratch your wart and do the same to another body part.
  • Genital warts spread from a surface to a person. You can also get genital warts if you share towels and razors with an infected person.

Read more: Can You Get Genital Warts from a Toilet Seat?

Skin tags are not contagious

Skin tags are not contagious

Treatment for skin tags and genital warts

Skin tags can be left alone, but if they cause pain and discomfort, you can get them removed. Treatments for skin tags include:

  • Over-the-counter solutions, such as Skinprov and TagBand
  • Surgery, such as excision, ligation, cryosurgery and cauterization

Genital warts can be removed with topical wart treatment, such as:

  • Aldara
  • Condylox topical
  • Trichloroacetic acid (TCA)
  • Vidarox cream

Vidarox is one of the best topical wart treatments. It helps eliminate the warts within 3 to 4 weeks of treatment. Especially, the medication can reduce genital wart symptoms immediately after applying it. Other treatments for genital warts include:

  • Excision
  • Cryosurgery
  • Electrocautery
  • Laser treatments

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