Stretch Marks (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
Stretch Marks Signs and Symptoms
Stretch marks do not generally produce any symptoms but have a characteristic visual appearance no matter when they appear or what the cause. They initially appear as raised pink to purple lines longitudinally arranged over the abdomen, lateral upper thighs, inner arms, or upper breasts. With time, the purplish-pink color lightens and they appear as silvery lines on the skin, similar to a scar. The purplish-pink scars are termed striae rubra, while the silvery lines are termed striae albae. Stretch marks can also occur in dark-complected people where they appear as dark-brown lines, which are termed striae nigrae. In short, stretch marks are scars that are permanent once formed.
When to Seek Medical Care
It is not necessary to seek medical care for stretch marks when they occur around puberty or pregnancy. The development of stretch marks is normal at these times. However, if stretch marks occur spontaneously without any relationship to life events, they may indicate the onset of another disease state, such as Cushing disease. In this case, it would be worthwhile to consult a physician who may recommend an assessment by an endocrinologist.
Stretch Marks Treatment
The treatment for stretch marks is limited, and there is no curative treatment. The most invasive therapies for stretch marks involve physician-administered laser surgery. Improvement in stretch marks with laser therapy is accomplished by wounding the scarred skin and hoping that the newly healed skin will have a more normal, cosmetically acceptable appearance. Medical reports of Nd:YAG laser, radiofrequency devices, and fractional photothermolysis have shown some degree of improvement in stretch mark appearance but not resolution.
The earlier the stretch mark is treated, generally the better the result. Red immature stretch marks are more amenable to treatment than those that have matured to a silvery white. This is because the reddish stretch marks are still healing, and the healing can be modified by intervention. Sometimes, camouflage (the use of cosmetics) is the best option to hide the scars.
A spa treatment for stretch marks is the use of microdermabrasion. Microdermabrasion uses a spray head to bombard the skin with tiny salt crystals, baking soda, or aluminum particles to literally sand the skin, a process medically known as exfoliation. While microdermabrasion can temporarily smooth any rough skin around the stretch mark, it cannot remove the stretch mark or make the scar permanently smooth.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/15/2014
Zoe Diana Draelos, MD, PA
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