MARCH 7, 2012

Tag, you’re it

dr daveOne of the things that irritate me, literally, are tags in the back collar of my shirts. (Please reread this last sentence in the grumpy whine of Andy Rooney, then go clip your eyebrows with a weed whacker.)

I live in fear of cutting them off and having my shirt unravel or shrink two sizes in the wash, exposing my patients to that attractive yet intimidating navel lint. Every noise outside my home could be the tag police about to bust in and arrest me.
Though you’d think they’d get used to it, my neighbors still get upset seeing me in handcuffs while the sirens send their dogs into whirling dervishes. Do these tags contain some formula for washing my clothes that will be forever lost should I cut them off? Wash them without the tag and they turn flaming magenta or lose an arm?

Once, while giving a talk, a tag was irritating my neck so badly that I kept reaching back to scratch it. Finally I had to apologize to the audience and I removed my shirt. That was the last time I was invited to speak at the Chippendales convention....jealousy, I suspect.

Skin tags are just as annoying as shirt tags and are also often found on the neck. You know them, the wee skin danglers that flop about on a thin wobbly stalk like a Kansas sunflower or a portobello mushroom on a flimsy stem that blows about in a westerly wind produced by an El Nino and on occasion an El Nina in September through late November.

On the plus side, skin tags are loads of fun to play with, especially when they have a long stalk. You can flick them about at dinner, toss them over your groin or, if you’re really talented, the groin of someone beside you. Spar with them like a punching bag for exercise.
And it's reassuring to know that skin tags is completely benign. 

Benign is a pleasant word like peppermint, playoffs and Bingo (under the B...9). Benign, as in be nine points ahead of your wife in scrabble, (but win and you better be nine miles out of town in a hurry.) A skin tag is called an acrochordon, which to be honest is a waste of an excellent, exotic medical name because we really don’t give a rat’s patoot about skin tags. They should be called nibblees or bleebettes or Kevin or something boring, which they are. They are completely safe, unless one swings up and hits you in the eye while you’re passing a Lamborghini in a school zone.

Skin tags typically crop up in places where skin is rubbed under friction like the armpit, neck, groin and even on the eyelids of those who rub their eyes a lot. They can occur under your breasts, explaining the general migration of skin tags towards the knees with age.

Small ones may be unnoticeable and often fall off on their own, which may explain that mysterious plop you heard in your soup last week. Speaking of soup, some are the size of lentils, others the size of wonton. One patient showed me one in his groin that was literally the size of a golf ball. Now as a doctor anything to do with golf gets our attention, so I took a be-nine iron and whacked it off. (I’m fairly sure it was the skin tag I hit as I didn’t notice any dramatic change in his vocal intonation).

While skin tags are frequently and inadvertently shaved off with a razor or even by waxing, home removal is generally frowned upon, particularly if you’re inclined to do so while the entree is being served. Skin tags can be frozen off with Liquid Nitrogen or snipped off with clippers, scissors or the cat’s really sharp incisors. But do it the house at your peril. Like my mother always said “David, I don’t want useless pieces of skin hanging about the house. Now get to school before I take Rooney’s weed whacker to you.”

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