Stretch marks are usually long, narrow streaks, or stripes that develop on the skin. They mostly occur when the skin is suddenly stretched and are very common. Stretch marks mostly appear as bands of parallel lines on the skin.
These lines can vary in colour and texture than the usual skin. They mostly range from purple to bright pink to light grey. When one tries to touch the marks with their fingers, they might feel a slight ridge on their skin. Sometimes, these marks can be itchy or sore.
These lines most commonly appear during or after pregnancy or after weight loss or gain. These can also occur in adolescents due to rapid growing. Usually stretch marks are not dangerous, and they often disappear over time.
The specialists at top healthcare centres such as Medicana Konya Hospital suggest that stretch marks can be found anywhere on the body but are most commonly found on the stomach, breasts, upper arms, thighs, and buttocks.
It can be caused by skin stretching and an increase of cortisone in the human system. Cortisone is a hormone naturally produced by the adrenal glands. Increased level of this hormone can make the skin lose its elasticity.
Stretch marks are common in these circumstances:
- Pregnancy: Studies suggest that 50 to 0 percent of women experience it, which can occur during or after the pregnancy.
- Puberty: There is a phase when there is rapid growth in young people, who are going through puberty. This can also lead to stretch marks.
- Weight gain: A Rapid weight gain in a short span of time can be one of the causes of stretch marks.
- Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as Marfan syndrome and Cushing’s syndrome can also lead to stretch marks. Marfan syndrome can lead to decreased elasticity in the skin tissue and Cushing’s syndrome can lead the body to produce an increased level of a hormone that leads to rapid weight gain and hence leading to stretch marks.
- Corticosteroid use: Prolonged use of corticosteroid creams and lotions can decrease levels of collagen in the skin.
It can be very easily diagnosed by a basic skin examination and a review of a person’s medical history.
The specialist will usually ask questions based on signs and symptoms, as well as any medications currently being used or existing medical conditions.
If a doctor suspects that stretch marks are there due to a serious illness, they may ask for blood, urine, or imaging tests.
They are usually not harmful and do not cause any medical problems. But they can cause an effect on your self esteem.
In most of the cases, it often fade with time. But, there are some people, who don’t want to wait, for them there are treatments that can improve their appearance. However, no treatment can make stretch marks disappear completely. Moreover, treatment for stretch marks, is very costly and is not always cost effective
But there are several ways to improve the appearance of stretch marks:
- Tretinoin cream (Retin-A, Renova): It works on a principle of restoring collagen, a fibrous protein that helps give your skin elasticity. It’s best to use this cream on recent stretch marks when they are red or pink. This cream may cause skin irritation. If someone is pregnant, they shouldn’t use tretinoin cream.
- Pulsed dye laser therapy : this therapy encourages the growth of collagen and elastin. The best time to use this therapy is, when the stretch marks are newer. Darker-skinned individuals can sometimes experience skin discolouration by this therapy.
- Fractional photothermolysis: This therapy is similar to pulsed dye laser therapy, the only difference is, in that, there is a use of laser. This therapy works by targeting smaller areas of the skin, which cause less skin damage.
- Microdermabrasion : this treatment involves polishing the skin with tiny crystals to get the new skin that is under the more elastic stretch marks. This therapy can improve the appearance of older stretch marks.
- The excimer laser: this option helps in stimulating the skin color (melanin) production so that stretch marks match the surrounding skin more closely.
There are a number of products and procedures that are available to remove the marks, but there are not any that have proven effect so far. But, taking precautions like moisturizing the skin may help to relieve the itchiness of stretch marks.
Stretch marks cannot always be prevented. But, the following steps can help to reduce the risk by:
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Eating a balanced diet which is rich in vitamins and minerals. Consuming a required amount of vitamins A and C can help support the skin, as well as the minerals zinc and silicon.
- Aiming for slow and gradual weight gain during pregnancy.
- Keeping yourself hydrated: it is recommended to drink six to eight glasses of water every day.