What are Stretch Marks: Causes, Diagnosis and Management

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Stretch Marks: Causes, Diagnosis and Management

Highlights

  • Stretch marks, or striae, are commonly seen in adolescents going through puberty, pregnant women, and obese adults.
  • Stretch marks appear due to the stretching of the skin and are form on the abdomen, glutes and thighs.
  • Stretch marks are usually harmless, but in exceptional cases, they may indicate an underlying ailment.
  • Older stretch marks are more difficult to lighten; therefore, we recommend treatment at the earliest. Lasers and Microneedling Radio Frequency (MNRF) have proven to be effective.

What are Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks, or striae, are white or pink coloured linear scars that develop on the skin when it gets stretched beyond its normal elasticity, causing the supportive collagen and elastin beneath to rupture. The consequent healing process results in the appearance of stretch marks. Stretch marks commonly form on the shoulders, abdomen, calves, hips and thighs. They might reduce gradually, but do not disappear completely.

Types of Stretch Marks:

Based on their formation, there are two types of stretch marks:
• Striae Rubrae: Striae Rubrae are stretch marks in their initial stages of formation. They are faintly raised red, vein-like, and linear lesions. These fade over several months, or even year, to whitish striae.

• Striae Albae: These are white, creased, depressed stretch marks that are more or less permanent. Furthermore, based on their appearance, they are classified as Stria Atrophicans, Striae Enigrae, Striae Caerulea, and Striae Gravidarum.
• Striae Atrophicans: Stretch marks associated with thin skin are called Striae Atrophicans. They can be seen in medical conditions like Cushing’s Syndrome or during the extensive use of corticosteroids.
• Stria Nigra: Usually associated with darker skin types, these kinds of stretch marks are dark grey or black.
• Striae Caerulea: These are dark blue-purplish stretch marks common with darker complexions.
• Striae Gravidarum: Pregnancy-related stretch marks.

Causes of Stretch Marks:

About 6%-86% of people are likely to experience stretch marks during puberty. Approximately 43% of people experience them due to rapid weight gain. Pregnancy is found to be the most common cause as nearly 43-88% pregnant women are found to have stretch marks.

Apart from these common causes, others include:

  • Growth during puberty – Adolescents notice light pink or light to dark brown striae on their thighs, breasts and back due to growth spurts.
  • Obesity – Weight gain stretches the skin, resulting in the rupture of underlying dermal tissue, giving way to unsightly stretch marks.
  • Pregnancy – The weight gain during pregnancy causes massive stretching and itchy stretch marks, majorly on the abdomen. Research suggests that younger mothers are more susceptible to pregnancy-related stretch marks than older mothers.
  • Hormonal variations – Increased cortisone production from the adrenal glands promotes protein catabolism, which usually occurs with injuries, stress, or underlying medical conditions. As a result, the elastin fibres are negatively impacted, resulting in the formation of stretch marks.
  • Genetic propensity – Though not extensively explored, it is suspected that genes might play a part in the expression of striae. Individuals with a family history of body stretch marks are likely to manifest the same at some point in their lives due to a decreased expression of collagen and fibronectin genes.
  • Symptomatic of underlying diseases – Striae atrophicans (thinned skin) occurs in people suffering from Cushing Syndrome and Marfan Syndrome.
  • Weight loss – Loosening of the distended skin due to major weight loss may also result in the appearance of stretch marks.
  • Chronic steroid use – The extensive and extended usage of corticosteroids can cause the appearance of striae.

Signs and Symptoms:

Stretch marks may appear as raised, reddish, brown or purplish-pink scars, with a tendency to itch. Over time, they become narrower and appear as deeper, darker or sometimes white-coloured lines sunken into the skin. It is relatively easier and more effective to treat stretch marks in their nascent stages.

Diagnosis:

If your stretch marks are extensive and/or itch persistently; we recommend that you consult a specialist. Depending on the severity, a professional dermatologist can decide the course of action in your best interest.

Prevention:

There is no medical evidence supporting the effectiveness of topical preparations in preventing the formation of stretch marks during pregnancy.

Disclaimer: Pregnant women are strictly advised to check with their doctors before using any such treatments for the safety of their baby.

Home Remedies

After the stretch marks have already appeared, there is little that home remedies can do. It is recommended to seek a professional opinion from a qualified dermatologist before attempting to treat them.

Treatment Options Available:

Stretch marks can be challenging to treat and require specific procedures to minimize their appearance. The following treatment options are available:

  • Micro-needling Radio Frequency (MNRF)
  • Tretinoin Cream
  • Plasma Rich Platelet therapy (PRP)
  • Chemical Peels and Microdermabrasion

READ MORE: Powerful Clinical Stretch Mark Removal Treatments

Although stretch marks are difficult to remove altogether, advanced technology and expert medical supervision can drastically minimize their appearance. It is recommended to seek proper medical advice to treat stretch marks. You can book an appointment with experts at the Oliva Skin and Hair Clinic for consultation and further details.


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