Stretch Marks: Causes, Treatments And Management

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Almost 30% of all female dermatologist visit in India is for stretch mark reduction.

Highlights

  • Stretch marks, or striae, are a common issue in adolescents undergoing puberty, pregnant women, and overweight adults.
  • Stretch marks appear because of the stretching of the skin and usually appear on the thighs, abdomen, and glutes.
  • Though stretch marks are harmless, sometimes they may indicate an underlying medical issue.
  • Older stretch marks are more difficult to lighten and thus, our dermatologist can recommend the right treatment. Microneedling Radio Frequency (MNRF) and Lasers have proved to be effective in removing stretch marks.

What Are Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks are the type of scars that develop on your skin when it stretches or shrinks quickly. The sudden change boosts collagen production and elasticity and damages your skin. Stretch marks may appear when your skin heals. 

Fluctuating hormone levels are one of the key reasons for having stretch marks. You are likely to have stretch marks if you have growth spurts in puberty, are pregnant, gain or lose weight quickly, or doing weight training. Long-time Corticosteroid application on your skin can also develop stretch marks. 

Stretch marks usually look pink, purple, dark brown,  reddish brown, or dark brown depending on the skin color. The new stretch marks may feel a little raised and itchy. Its color fades gradually and the narrow bands sink below your skin. You will feel a little depressed if you run your finger over a mature stretch mark.

The healing process causes the appearance of stretch marks, mostly on your thighs, hip, calves, abdomen, and shoulders. The stretch marks decrease gradually but don’t disappear fully. 

Types of Stretch Marks:

Stretch marks can be of two different types below depending on their formation and looks:

  1. Striae Rubrae: Pink or red stretch marks 
  2. Striae Albae: White stretch marks

Other classifications of stretch marks when it comes to different types include:

  • Striae Gravidarum: Stretch marks that occur as an outcome of pregnancy.
  • Striae Nigrae: Dark gray or black stretch marks that usually appear on darker complexion skin types.
  • Striae Caerulea: Dark blue or purplish stretch marks that can also develop on people with darker complexions.
  • Striae Atrophicans: Thinned skin related to stretch marks, which may develop in people with Cushing’s syndrome, because of the prolonged use of corticosteroids or after a surgical process.

Striae Rubrae

Striae rubrae is the acute stage of stretch marks, which shows the primary physical signs of overstretched skin. The epidermis usually flattens because of the gradual atrophy or degeneration) and loses rete ridges. Collagen fibers thicken, get more densely packed, and arrange themselves in a more perpendicular or parallel pattern. The thickening of collagen fibers always decreases the number of elastic fibers. 

You can see the major signs of inflammation caused due to overstretching at this stage. The affected skin turns pink, red, or violaceous in color. Markings may look flat but can sometimes be a little raised. The length and breadth of formations slowly increase. The stretch marks can also get pruritic (itchy) at this stage but they are predominantly asymptomatic.

Striae Albae

Striae Albae is the more chronic or mature stage of stretch mark formation. Stretch marks get more scar-like, hypopigmented (faded or white that lose vascular alterations), and irregularly shaped. Some may even get a good wrinkled texture. 

The development from striae rubrae to striae albae is normal and can take many months to years. Mature stretch marks may also get more prominent as you naturally lose skin elasticity with aging.

Striae Gravidarum (Pregnancy Stretch Marks)

Striae gravidarum are secondary to striae distensae and develop after you get pregnant. Such types of stretch marks are most prominent on the breast, abdomen, and thigh parts of a pregnant woman. They usually occur around the 6th or 7th month of gestation but can also develop as early as 6 months. 

A pregnant woman may also notice stretch marks forming around her buttocks, hips, lower back area, and upper arms. These stretch marks appear as striae rubrae and develop into linear hypopigmented depressions, mostly with fine wrinkles.

Reduction or weakening of elastin fibers and fibrillin microfibrils (a glycoprotein) in your dermis, which is caused because of the hormonal and physical changes you experience during pregnancy. It can be the change in the display design of stretch marks in pregnant women. They have a more parallel pattern that often develops side-by-side rather than perpendicular alignment. Stretch marks acquired during pregnancy tend to fade and get more mature in 1 or 2 years. 

What Causes Stretch Marks On Body?

Here are some common reasons for stretch marks on the body:

Obesity 

Around 43% of people get stretch marks on their bodies because of quick weight gain. Obesity stretches your skin, damages the underlying dermal tissue, and causes non-visible stretch marks.

Growth in Puberty 

Approximately 6% to 8% of people tend to get stretch marks in their puberty. Adolescents see light brown or light pink to dark brown striae on thighs, back and breasts because of growth spurts.

Pregnancy 

Pregnancy is one of the key causes of stretch marks as approximately 43 to 88% of pregnant women have that. The weight gain because your pregnancy largely stretches your skin and causes itchy stretch marks, mainly on the abdomen. Younger mothers are more prone to pregnancy-related stretch marks than older mothers.

Genetic Propensity 

Genes may develop striae on your body parts. Stretch marks may appear on your body anytime due to the decreased production of collagen and fibronectin genes.

Hormonal Variations 

High cortisone production from your adrenal glands boosts protein catabolism, which tends to occur with stress, injuries, or inherent medical issues. As a consequence, the elastic fibers degrade, which may form stretch marks.

Weight Loss 

You can have stretch marks when your distended skin gets loose because of massive weight loss.

Symptomatic of Underlying Diseases 

Striae atrophicans or thinned skin occurs if you suffer from Marfan Syndrome and Cushing Syndrome.

Chronic Steroid Use  The prolonged and extensive application on your skin can cause striae.

Signs and Symptoms:

Your skin may appear pink and thin before stretch marks emerge. It can also feel itchy or irritated. The marks initially appear as raised and wrinkly streaks that can be pink, purple, dark brown, red, and reddish brown depending on skin color.

 

The streaks gradually fade, flatten and tend to get silvery in color over time. 

 

Stretch marks may look raised, brown, reddish, brown, or purplish-pink with a feeling of itching. They get narrower and appear darker, deeper,  or sometimes as white-colored lines deep into your skin. You can easily and effectively treat stretch marks in their primary stages.

 

All stretch marks don’t look the same and vary depending on how long you have had them, where they are located on your body, and the type of skin you have.

 

Here are the common types of stretch marks: 

  • Blue, purple, pink, red, or black streaks 

  • Streaks covering large body parts 

  • Bright streaks that fade to a light color 

  • Indented streaks or lines on your breasts, abdomen, buttocks, hips, or other body parts.

Diagnosis:

Consult our dermatologist if you have extensive stretch marks that feel itchy at times. Clinic Next Face can suggest the right treatment suited to the level of your stretch marks. 

Treatment Options Available:

Stretch marks are quite tough to treat and require the implementation of specific procedures to minimize their appearance. Here are the most effective stretch marks treatment solutions:

  • Micro Needling Radio Frequency (MNRF)
  • Chemical Peels 
  • Tretinoin Cream

How To Prevent Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks don’t look on your skin and everyone wants to get rid of them as soon as possible. There is no medical evidence that supports the effectiveness of topical medicines in preventing the appearance of stretch marks during pregnancy. Consult our doctor before using any treatment if you are a pregnant woman and want to keep your baby safe. 

Even though stretch marks are tough to remove fully, advanced technology and medical supervision can significantly reduce their appearance. You should always consult our experts to treat your stretch marks.   

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