What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks are the fine lines on your skin as a result of rapid stretching of the skin such as during pregnancy, extreme weight gain or weight loss. They are often seen in the abdominal area, thighs, hips, breasts, upper arms or lower back. Both men and women can be affected by stretch marks, although the problem is more widespread among women.
Stretch marks can occur anywhere on the body where the skin has been stretched over a period of time. They start out as raised red or purple lines, which slowly fade into flat silvery streaks.
Structure of the skin
Skin consists of three layers––the epidermis (outer layer of the skin), the dermis (middle layer of the skin), and the subcutaneous (inner layer of the skin). Knowing about the structure of skin will help you in understanding how stretch marks are developed.
What causes of stretch marks?
Your skin is remarkably flexible. However, when the dermis breaks down, skin gets overstretched, leaving behind stretch marks. Your skin becomes thin and the blood vessels under the surface show through, which is why stretch marks look reddish in color. After a period of time, it becomes silvery white in color as the blood vessels reduce in size. Sometimes, stretch marks may develop due to the inability of your skin to make enough Collagen and Elastin (proteins that bind tissues together) to support the stretching.
There are many factors that can contribute to stretch marks on your skin. Some of the common causes are:
Pregnancy: When you are pregnant, your abdomen develops stretch marks as it expands to accommodate your growing baby. These stretch marks usually start appearing in the sixth or seventh month of your pregnancy and may appear on your thighs, breasts and/or buttocks.
Puberty: During puberty you may tend to get stretch marks as your body grow and gain weight very rapidly during this period.
Athletes: If you are an athlete and undergo excessive physical activity routinely to build up muscle mass, chances are that you might get stretch marks on your legs and thighs.
Weight loss or gain: If you experience rapid weight loss due to dieting, you may develop stretch marks as your skin undergoes rapid changes. Similarly rapid weight gain can also lead to stretch marks.
Preventing stretch marks
You cannot avoid stretch marks; however, you can take some preventive measures:
Maintain a balanced diet to keep your skin healthy.
If you are dieting, try to reduce your weight slowly to prevent any rapid changes in your skin.
Massage or moisturize your skin regularly to keep your skin supple.
Tips to reduce stretch marks
Maintain a healthy weight.
Exercise regularly for better blood circulation.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Massage or moisturize your skin.
Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated.
Take medication only with your doctor’s consent
Stretch marks take time to fade—so be patient.
Even if you follow all the above guidelines, stretch marks might still develop. They will fade with time, so do not despair.
Treating stretch marks
Once the stretch marks are formed, there is no effective treatment to remove them completely. Treatments may only reduce your stretch marks to some extent. Consult your doctor
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