Stretch marks are colored lines or streaks that appear on the skin from weight gain or growth. They’re essentially tears on the skin, but aren’t an indication of a health issue.
Stretch marks often begin as red or purple marks, and slowly fade to white or silver over time. Early stretch marks may feel slightly raised and can be itchy.
The difference in color distinguishes how old the marks are. Though they may never disappear completely, treatment can lighten the color of the marks and shrink them.
Not everyone develops these narrow bands on their skin. Fluctuating hormone levels may seem to play a role. A person may also have a higher risk if people in their family get stretch marks.
- Growth spurts that happen in puberty
- Rapid weight loss or gain
- Weight training when there is rapid muscle growth
Applying a corticosteroid to the skin for a long time can also cause stretch marks. If a person has Cushing’s disease or Marfan syndrome, it can also cause stretch marks.
Treatments for Stretch Marks
Treatments available through skin doctors and plastic surgeons offer some hope for reducing the appearance of stretch marks.
No solution has been shown to work for everyone, but the following treatments show a high success rate for many people.
- Retin A – tretinoin (retinoic acid) can penetrate through the upper layer of the skin and rebuild collagen, which explains how it improves stretch marks for some people. It is only available by prescription. Its benefits appear to be strongest when used on new stretch marks, so people should seek treatment as early as possible.
- Laser or Light Therapy – laser therapy is one of the newest treatments for stretch marks that appears to be effective in reducing their appearance. Pulsed dye lasers and intense pulse light can improve the appearance of stretch marks and increase collagen production over time.
- Platelet-rich Plasma with Ultrasound – PRP therapy uses platelet-rich plasma taken from the person’s own blood immediately before procedure.
- Plastic Surgery – a tummy tuck, thigh lift, and other similar procedures work by removing excess skin and tightening remaining skin and tissue.
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