Stretch Marks

What are stretch marks (striae)?

Stretch marks are forms of depressed scars arranged in threads on the skin. They appear due to overstretching of the normal or weakened skin. Striae usually show up on the breasts, around armpits, on the belly, buttocks, thighs or lower back.

What is the cause of stretch marks?

Any sudden change in weight, pregnancy, any overstretching the skin such as during growth spurts in puberty, and some diseases (Cushing’s or Marfan syndrome). Also, use of oral or topical corticosteroids (especially if used in skin folds) can cause stretch marks (striae). It may run in families.

How do stretch marks look and feel like?

In the beginning they can be in the form of long, red, or pink, scar-like threads on the skin. Over the period of months they turn into white, or ivory-colored, sometimes shiny and slightly depressed threads. Slowly, over time they may become less visible.

Should I see my health care provider?

Absolutely, since the most effective treatments need a prescription, or need to be performed by a health care provider. In addition, if really severe, your health care provider should check you for possible Cushing’s, or Marfan syndrome.

What are the treatments for stretch marks?

There are several treatment options and all work the best if started as early as possible:

  • Tretinoin 0.1% cream (brand names Retin-A, Tretin-X) once daily for 3-6 months.
  • Lasers (PDL- this one is especially suitable for red striae, Fraxel).
  • Chemical peels (trichloracetic acid peels).
  • Microdermabrasion (mechanical, very fine sanding of the superficial layers of the skin by using sand paper-like materials and crystals).

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