Stretch marks: Causes, treatment and prevention

It can caused either due to pregnancy or due to extreme weight loss. Stretch marks generally occur on our tummies, arms, thighs and chests.

These stretch marks act as permanent reminder with their horizontal thread like marks all along our skin. But did you know there are ways to minimise these permanent marks? Dr Rickson Pereira, Consulting Dermatologist, Dr Minal's Dermatherapie Centre, M.D. (Dermatology, Venereology & Leprosy) tell us how.

The reasons and causes of stretch marks

Stretch marks are healed scars in the skin which are caused due to overstretching of the skin. They often appear on the abdomen, breasts, upper arms, buttocks and thighs. They may be pink or red to begin with, but eventually fade to white or grey. Stretch Marks: Causes, Treatment and Prevention The tendency to develop stretch marks is genetic, because it depends on the amount and arrangement of the protein elastin in the skin. Once a stretch mark has developed, it cannot be reversed.

Stretch marks can develop in the following circumstances: Pregnancy - Most pregnant women develop stretch marks towards the end of their pregnancy. If your mother had them, you are probably going to have them. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy, twin or multiple pregnancy can increase the chances of getting stretch marks. Weight gain and growth during adolescence and in weight-lifters.

Medication use - prolonged use of corticosteroid creams, lotions and pills. Corticosteroids reduce the production of collagen and elastin in the skin making it prone to stretch marks. Hence, these medications should not be used without a physician's supervision.

Diseases such as Cushing's syndrome (excessive cortisol secretion by a tumor) can cause sudden onset of wide stretch marks on the arms, thighs and abdomen. Genetic conditions including Marfan's syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome can cause stretch marks due to abnormalities in collagen and elastin

Precaution to avoid stretch marks

If you have developed stretch marks you have a tendency for it. If weight gain is the cause, weight loss through appropriate diet and exercise helps prevent formation of new stretch marks and prevents widening of the existing stretch marks. Avoid self-medicating with oral corticosteroids or steroid creams and lotions. Stretch Marks: Causes, Treatment and Prevention Work with your gynecologist to avoid excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Following a good diet and exercise, will provide good health to you and your baby with the added advantage of minimizing stretch marks.

Myths about stretch marks

Stretch marks can be prevented by rubbing plenty of moisturisers (creams, oils, lotions and butters) - the basic cause of stretch marks is overstretching of skin due to weight gain in an individual prone to stretch marks. So, moisturisers have no role to play in the prevention of stretch marks. Stretch Marks: Causes, Treatment and Prevention Myths about stretch marks Stretch marks can be removed with treatment - no treatment can eliminate stretch marks. Some creams and lasers can improve the appearance of stretch marks by stimulating the formation of new collagen and elastin within them.

Options of new-age laser solutions for the weight related and post natal stretch marks

Treatments for stretch marks are only partially effective and won't remove the stretch marks completely. Some of the available treatments can be used singly or in combination:

Retinoid cream - cream containing retinoic acid, tazarotene have been shown to rebuild collagen within stretch marks and improve their appearance. However, they should not be used during pregnancy.

Treatments for stretch marks

Alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic acids in the form of peels or creams work similar to retinoids.

Microdermabrasion or skin polishing removes the topmost layer of the skin stimulating the growth of new skin and collagen.

Lasers such as Nd-Yag lasers and fractional lasers can improve the appearance of stretch marks but multiple sessions are required (5-8). Nd-Yag lasers are effective in pink to red stretch marks, and fractional lasers in white stretch marks.

Hyaluronic acid fillers can be injected into stretch marks by microinjections to improve hydration and reduce the papery texture.

Venus freeze is a device used for skin tightening which combines radiofrequency and magnetic pulse technology. Within 8-10 sessions it tightens up loose skin and stimulates collagen and elastin production which also improves stretch marks. The treatment is safe, and with no downtime or discomfort.

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