Skin tags are skin-colored growths that occur in people of all ages. They are mostly found on the armpits, neck, under the breasts, or around the groin, but can appear in other areas of the body. Getting a skin tag inside your mouth is more uncommon, and you need to make sure it is, indeed, a skin tag. Most tags on the tongue are benign, harmless, and should not be a cause for concern. They can also be removed easily if they’re bothering you.
What Does a Skin Tag Look Like?
Skin tags are small, skin-colored growths that feel soft to the touch. They can measure from a few millimeters up to a few centimeters. Skin tags are usually knobbly and hang off the skin but do not typically cause pain or discomfort, especially the tiny ones.
Note that skin tags are not contagious. As opposed to warts, that spread very easily. So if you notice a cluster of growths, it is unlikely you have skin tags.
Why Do Skin Tags Occur?
It is unknown what causes skin tags, but some researchers believe it happens when clusters of collagen and blood vessels get trapped inside the skin. And since they are most common in skin creases and folds, another cause may be skin rubbing against skin.
Skin tags on the tongue may be caused by friction, too, since your tongue is rubbing against the skin inside your mouth. It could also be caused by body jewelry. Some people have an increased susceptibility to skin tags. Unfortunately, you can’t prevent skin tags, but you can prevent bumps on the tongue to get infected by practicing good oral hygiene.
Risk Factors for Skin Tags
Older people, pregnant people, people with a sex-steroid imbalance, or those who suffer from different diseases or conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hyperinsulinemia, and obesity are also more likely to develop skin tags on the body, including the inside of the mouth. Both men and women can develop them.
How to Identify a Skin Tag on the Tongue
If you notice a fleshy growth on your tongue, it could be a skin tag, but it could also be several other medical possibilities. It’s important to understand the difference between a skin tag and something else, so here are other conditions you could mistake a skin tag for:
- Warts. These flesh-colored growths are caused by a virus, human papillomavirus (HPV), and are extremely contagious. The squamous cell papilloma is one of the most common growths, and it can look just like a skin tag. These bumps are noncancerous, but there are many variations of HPV, and some of them increase the risk of getting certain types of oral cancer. It’s important to seek medical attention to remove warts.
- Plica Fimbriata. This is a slight fold of the mucous membrane on the tongue’s underside and can feel like a skin tag. Luckily, it’s perfectly natural to have one and requires no treatment.
- Lymphoepithelial cysts. These hardened nodules tend to appear on the bottom of the tongue. They look like white or yellow lumps and can grow up to 1cm wide. They are not a cause for concern, but a doctor may still do an autopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
- Irritation fibroma. A fibroma is a noncancerous cluster of tissue and is usually caused by a minor injury, such as biting your tongue. Most irritation fibromas don’t require treatment, but you can ask your doctor to remove it if you want to.
- Oral thrush. This yeast infection is often seen in babies. Most people with oral thrush develop white patches on the tongue, accompanied by redness and a sore mouth. Oral thrush can be treated with antifungal medication.
- Swollen taste bud. You can’t normally feel your taste buds, but they can sometimes become irritated and may swell up. Although this is nothing too serious, a swollen taste bud does require a doctor’s attention.
- Canker sores. These small, shallow lesions typically appear on the lips’ inside, but it is not uncommon to get them on the tongue. The cause of canker sores is not fully understood but could be triggered by certain foods. Most lesions go away on their own.
- Allergies. Allergic reactions to certain food may cause lesions on the tongue. Medical assistance is required when the bumps are accompanied by other symptoms such as swelling of the lips and/or tongue, breathing difficulties, or rashes or hives.
- Oral cancer. Although rare, fleshy growth on the tongue could be cancer, particularly if it is hard and painful. Consult a doctor if the bump lasts longer than two weeks.
A skin tag on the tongue is usually harmless, but you must get any new bumps checked by a medical professional if you also notice any of the following:
- Changes in size, color, or texture.
- Red or white patches inside the mouth.
- Pain that won’t go away.
- Open wounds that won’t heal.
- Throat pain.
- Voice changes.
- Trouble chewing or swallowing.
- Problems moving your tongue or jaw.
- Unexplained weight loss.
Tongue Skin Tags Treatment
Skin tags should not be painful; this symptom could be a sign of something more serious. These bumps, however, can affect your self-esteem or snag on clothing or jewelry, in which case you’ll want them removed. They don’t usually fall on their own, but they can be removed fairly easily. Discuss your issue with a doctor, and they will choose the proper treatment option. If you’re lucky, they will fall off on their own once the tissue dies from a lack of blood supply.
Skin tags can either be cut off with a scalpel, cauterized, frozen using liquid nitrogen, or burned off with a laser tool. Multiple treatments may be required to remove the skin tags completely. Self-treatment is not recommended due to a risk of bleeding or infection. Any removal procedure should only be done by a specialist skin doctor or a similarly trained medical professional.