What are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are irregular markings on your skin that look like bands, stripes, or lines. The medical terms for stretch marks are striae and striae atrophica.
What They Look Like
Stretch marks may look like slight indentations or discolored streaks on your skin. Recently formed stretch marks appear to be red or "glossy." Over time, they become whiter in color and take on a scar-like appearance. Stretch marks clearly have a different texture than normal skin.
Where are They Most Common?
While they can actually occur anywhere on the body, the most common locations are the abdomen, breasts, thighs, hips, and buttocks.
What Causes Them?
Stretch marks sometimes occur when a person grows quickly, such as the rapid growth spurts that are experienced by adolescents during puberty.
Stretch marks occur in both males and females.
Is There a Medical Reason for Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks can also occur as a result of abnormal collagen formation or use of particular medications, such as hormone therapies, steroids), or cortisone creams.
If you have stretch marks and know you have gained a significant amount of weight recently, you are most likely not suffering from any underlying medical cause. If weight gain or pregnancy doesn't appear to be the explanation, then you probably should see your doctor. While a medical condition is not likely the cause of your stretch marks, you may wish for your doctor to rule any of them out for your own peace of mind.
Some common questions your doctor may ask you include:
- When did you first notice the stretch marks?
- What medicines have you taken?
- Have you used a cortisone skin cream?
- What other symptoms do you have?
What Can I Do About Them?
The good news is that stretch marks may simply disappear on their own after weight loss or childbirth.
If your stretch marks do not fade in time, there isn't really anything you can do on your own to make them go away. While some products on the market claim to fade or repair stretch marks, there isn't really a "cure" for them. Prevention is the best medicine. The ideal way to prevent stretch marks is to avoid rapid weight gain.
A dermatologist or plastic surgeon may be able to offer you options to consider. Microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and laser surgery are sometimes treatment options. While these treatments will not make stretch marks disappear, they can make them less noticeable.
It's important to remember, however, that the results of these procedures can vary greatly from person to person and your success with the procedures can be affected by your age and your skin tone. They are also associated with their own potential risks.
Since these are cosmetic procedures they are not generally covered by insurance.
Lehrer, M.D., Michael S. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: Striae 16 April 2007.