Stretch marks: how and why they occur and how they can be treated

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Stretch marks are fine striae that occur as the result of disruption and splitting of the elastic fibres beneath the surface of the skin. Can they be treated?

Stretch marks are the result of the thinning and loss of elasticity of the lower layer of skin and the disruption of the bundles of collagen and elastin fibres. They appear when the skin is suddenly stretched, including, for example, during pregnancy or when weight is quickly gained. They can also occur during athletic activity and weight training as muscle mass quickly grows. A genetic factor may also play a certain role. Stretch marks most frequently occur on the stomach, hips, thighs, buttocks and sometimes on breasts.

The occurrence of striae is not directly connected with any medical problem. They can be caused by nutritional deficiencies (lack of protein, Vitamin C and minerals), the use of steroid hormones and naturally changes in body proportions.

Research shows that striae occur in 90% of pregnancies, in 70% of adolescent women and 40% of adolescent men (the majority of which are involved in sports).

During pregnancy stretch marks most commonly appear on the stomach and breasts. They appear on the thighs and small of the back of adolescent boys and the breasts and buttocks of adolescent girls. In certain cases stretch marks can form on the upper parts of the arm. Stretch marks that appear as a result of the use of steroids are typically larger, wider and take up a larger area, even on the face.

Fresh stretch marks are flat pink cracks – thinned skin that may sometimes itch. These stretch marks gradually expand and turn pale. The surface of the stretch marks can be wrinkled. Old stretch marks are white depressions that form in groups in the direction of the stretched skin. They are typically several centimetres long and 1-10 mm wide. Stretch marks can gradually almost disappear like certain scars on the surface of the skin.

Prevention

The formation of stretch marks can be relatively effectively prevented. As basic prevention we recommend, for example, regular applications of special creams such as Bepanthene Plus, which help skin grow quickly and resist cracking. Various cosmetic body programs aimed at increasing the flexibility and resistance of skin also have a preventative effect.

Therapy

If stretch marks appear it is recommended that laser treatment is commenced as soon as possible. Laser treatment is the most effective method for treating stretch marks. Repeated procedures help stretch marks to quickly pale and not become deep.

Asklepion offers a unique method to dramatically improve the appearance of stretch marks. The physician treats the skin with a fractionated CO2 laser, which resurfaces stretch marks without causing bleeding. The laser likewise tightens the skin and as a result the stretch marks are pale and smooth.

The Vbeam laser, which removes excess veins, is the most effective treatment method for red stretch marks. By coagulating their vascular supply, the stretch marks turn pale much faster. The laser is also able to partially remodel stretch marks. The healing period is reduced to a minimum.

Stretch marks can also be effectively treated with vacuum massage by the Dermosonic and Aerosonic body devices.

Specialists in Asklepion’s Dermatology Department can recommend the most effective treatment for your type of stretch marks. Appointments can be made by calling +420 234 716 000 or 602 483 322.

Published: 2008-07-01

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