Stretch Marks - Symptoms & Treatment
Stretch marks or striae, are a form of scarring on the skin with a silvery white hue. Stretch marks happen when the tissue under the skin is pulled by rapid growth or stretching. Stretch marks are generally associated with pregnancy, obesity, bodybuilding, puberty, and intense physical activity. They can be found in children who have become rapidly obese. They may also occur during the rapid growth of puberty in males and females. Stretch marks look like thin, stretched tissue, and that is more or less what they are. Stretch marks occur in the dermis, the elastic middle layer of skin that allows it to retain its shape. However, when constantly stretched, the dermis can break down leaving behind stretch marks. When the skin is stretched thinly, the blood vessels under the surface show through, which is why stretch marks look reddish in colour. Other names for stretch marks are striae distensae, striae atrophicans, striae rubra (which are red) and striae alba (white). The stretch marks may be slightly depressed and have a different texture than normal skin.
Women with multiples are more likely to get stretch marks because their bellies usually grow much larger than women with single pregnancies. Stretch marks also may occur if a person uses steroid-containing skin creams or ointments for more than a few weeks, or has to take high doses of oral corticosteroids for months or longer. Men and women can get stretch marks on several areas of their bodies, including the abdominal area, thighs, hips, breasts, upper arms or lower back. Stretch marks are usually several centimetres long and 1-10 mm wide. Those caused by corticosteroid use or Cushing's syndrome are often larger and wider and may involve other regions, including the face. Stretch marks closely resemble scars. In fact, stretch marks are the most common types of skin lesions. About 90% of pregnant women get stretch marks. Stretch marks usually are only a cosmetic problem, but rarely, if extensive they may ulcerate or tear easily in an accident. There is no specific care for stretch marks. Advertised creams and salves to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy are of little value.
Causes of Stretch marks
The common causes and risk factor's of Stretch marks include the following:
- Rapid stretching of the skin.
- Heavy or long-term corticosteroid use (cream or oral forms) can cause stretch marks.
- Family history of stretch marks.
- Puberty and Obesity.
- Abdominal enlargement of pregnancy.
- Stretch marks may also occur as a result of medications or chemicals that interfere with collagen formation.
Symptoms of Stretch marks
Some sign and symptoms related to Stretch marks are as follows:
- Stretch marks start as red lines on the skin that are slightly raised.
- They may also look pink, reddish brown, or dark brown.
- Stretch marks usually appear in parallel lines.
- The skin is thin and silvery and often looks scar-like.
Treatment of Stretch marks
Here is list of the methods for treating Stretch marks:
- In the early stages, stretch marks can sometimes be reduced with over-the-counter moisturising creams, particularly those containing vitamin E or vitamin A.
- Cocoa butter cream , which is available from pharmacies, is often recommended to soften scars, so might be worth a try.
- Creams containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are made with plant extracts and can also help.
- Topical retinoid therapy may be used.
- Lasers can be used to treat stretch marks at an early stage, when they are still red.
- An operation called an abdominoplasty is carried out to remove excess fat and skin around the abdomen (stomach), and remove stretch marks below the belly button at the same time.