Stretch marks is a form of scarring characterized by thin vein-like lines of pink colour at first and a glossy white colour later, found on the skin surface. They are also called as stria or striae for plural. When the dermis (the middle layer of the skin is responsible for elasticity and strength) undergoes constant stretching, it ruptures in various places and leads to formation of stretch marks. They are harmless and become less visible as time passes. Rarely, stretch marks can be a symptom of a condition called Cushing’s syndrome.
Cushing’s syndrome is a hormonal disorder with other symptoms of weight gain and hypertension.
Stretch Marks Symptoms
- Vein-like lines on the surface of skin of colour ranging from pink, purple which eventually fades into a glossy white colour.
- They are most common in areas such as in abdomen, buttocks, thighs, upper arms and breasts.
Stretch Marks Causes
- Pregnancy: Stretch marks are quite common during the last stage of pregnancy due to the gradual and constant stretching of the skin and also hormones.
- Sudden weight gain: A sudden weight gain can put strain on the skin resulting in stretch marks. Sportspersons and weightlifters can also get stretch marks due to sudden muscle gain.
- Puberty: Adolescents who have attained puberty undergo growth and development of the body in spurts. This sudden, quick growth spurts can result in stretch marks.
- Genetics: A family history of stretch marks puts you at risk of developing it. Women are more prone to develop stretch marks.
- Specific drugs: Corticosteroid creams, lotions or tablets can cause stretch marks as they decrease the amount of collagen in your skin making it prone to wear and tear.
- Medical conditions: Rare medical conditions such as Cushing’s syndrome, Marfan syndrome or other genetic disorders.
Stretch Marks Risk factors
- Adolescents who have attained puberty.
- Pregnant women.
- Sudden weight gain or weight loss due to crash diet or illness.
- Overweight people.
- Genetics – tendency to develop stretch marks.
- Corticosteroid medication.
Stretch Marks Treatment
- Creams and lotions: Over-the-counter creams and gels that help in reducing stretch marks can be used, though these are not medically proven. Improvement in appearance of stretch marks can be seen. In fact these lotions can be used at an earlier stage of pregnancy as a preventive measure for not developing stretch marks. Creams containing ingredients such as Vitamin E and cocoa butter are worth considering.
- Tretinoin cream: Creams containing tretinoin (Retin-A, Renova) can be used to treat stretch marks though results may vary and it does not work on “old” stretch marks. Tretinoin works towards producing new collagen which lightens stretch marks to a colour closer to skin tone. It can cause side effects such as inflammation and swelling. Never use these creams during pregnancy or while lactating.
- Surgical methods such as dermabrasion, chemical peels or laser surgery can be sought.
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