Skin Tags May Point to Diabetes


Dear Pharmacist,
I used to have beautiful skin and now as I get older I notice more and more age spots. How can I get rid of the ones I have and stop more from forming?  I’m also curious as to why some people get skin tags as we age. Thanks.  –K.S.  Lodi, California

Answer:  First adolescent blemishes, then skin tags, then age spots—bam, bam, bam. Most of us at some point in our lives must deal with regular visits from this troublesome threesome.Today, I’ll focus on skin tags and age spots. Fortunately, both are benign. A visit to your dermatologist is the quickest and easiest way to eliminate either problem. In just one or two visits your doctor can snip or freeze away most skin tags and literally erase age spots with a laser beam. Snip, zap, and your skin is clear. These are minor procedures and not overly expensive.

Age spots, the discolorations that appear mostly on hands and face as we age, are pigment deposits resulting from a lifetime of sun exposure. These pesky little spots are nature’s way of saying that you’ve overdone it. Over-the-counter bleaching creams that contain either hydroquinone or kojic acid aren’t going to perform any miracles, but they aren’t harmful either. They help to lighten the appearance of age spots. They do take time and their effect is mild. Follow label directions and discontinue use if they irritate your skin.

Some people have reported success with an old-fashioned treatment for age spots—castor oil. Simply rub the oil on the spots a couple times a day for several weeks and see if it helps to fade the spots. I like this remedy because the oil -derived from the castor bean- is kind to many skin conditions.

Skin tags, those unsightly little tabs that appear mainly on face, hands, and chest seem to arise more frequently during middle age and in those who are overweight. Almost half the adult population seems to have at least a few. This would make me pass out personally, but one dermatologist-approved method of removing larger skin tags is to gently tie them off with string or dental floss. Apparently, they drop off in a couple of days. Please don’t email me any pictures. And also don’t attempt this  for tags in awkward locations, like the eyelids. Better yet, ask your own dermatologist if this home remedy is okay.

Until now, medical science has held that skin tags are growths that happen when the skin in sensitive areas is rubbed or irritated. But earlier this year, Brazilian researchers found that multiple skin tags are “strongly associated” with insulin resistance, a condition that foreshadows the development of diabetes. Your doctor can test you for this condition so be grateful you’ve been given the information, and the opportunity to prevent diabetes from becoming part of your life.

Did You Know?
The popular blood pressure drug nifedipine has also been successful at treating migraine headaches.