Stretch marks or striae are typically narrow, extended lines that develop on the skin due to excessive and sudden skin stretching.
Stretchmarks are very common and anyone can develop them, although they are more prone in women as compared to men. Additionally, they occur anywhere on the body from the thighs, hips, stomach, arms, buttocks, lower back, breasts among other areas.
When can you get them
Technically, stretch marks form when the skin fails to revert to normal after a phase of extraordinary growth or stretching, especially during;
- Pregnancy: studies indicate that about 50-90% of pregnant women experience stretch marks before or after giving birth.
- Puberty: growth spurts are very common in youths especially during puberty.
- Quick weight gain or weight loss: abrupt or sudden weight gain within a brief period of time can result in stretching of the skin. Alternatively, sudden weight loss can also cause these marks.
- Health problems: certain medical conditions such as Marfan syndrome and Cushing’s syndrome promote the development of these marks. For instance, the Marfan syndrome interferes with the skin’s elasticity by reducing it while the Cushing’s syndrome causes the body to release a hormone that promotes sudden weight gain and causes the skin to become weak hence prone to stretching.
- Prolonged use of corticosteroid: corticosteroids interfere with the levels of collagen-by reducing them. collagen strengthens and supports the skin; therefore, a decreased level of collagen increases the chances of developing stretch marks.
Nonetheless, the marks usually fade over time without any treatment and never posit any extreme medical problem, although for some people it’s a major cosmetic concern that causes self-image problems as well as anxiety.
Signs and symptoms
Usually, before the onset of striae, the skin in the overstretched region appears thin, pinkish and may even feel itchy or irritated.
Depending on the skin color, Initially, “the marks develop as wrinkly, elevated streaks that can be reddish-brown, purple, dark brown or pink” notes Medical News Today. However, over time the streaks tend to disappear, flatten and change into a silvery, white or a glossy look.
Are stretch marks scars?
Technically, stretch marks are scars or disfigured lesions. Essentially, they result from the skin being stretched beyond its elastic capacity until it literally tears on the surface level.
New, fresh stretch marks are normally pearlescent white in color and easily fade over time with or without any treatment.
On the other hand, a scar, according to American Academy of dermatologists is a mark that is left on your skin after an injury heals. The scar can be brown, silver or pale pink.
So, technically a scar and this mark are similar but from a layman’s perspective, they are not the same. According to aad, technically, they are a type of scar which develops on the skin due to rapid stretching and shrinkage.
Omar Ibrahimi, MD, a Stamford dermatologic surgeon says, “a stretch mark is a unique type of scar in which there is a loss of tissue often due to rapid weight gain/loss or hormones.”
The sudden changes in our skin cause collagen and elastin to fracture-hence when the skin heals, stretchmarks develops.
Additionally, they may become more extreme if there is an increased level of cortisone or even if cortisone is being applied on the skin- this is because cortisol (a stress hormone) is transformed into cortisone which reduces the elastic fibers present in the skin.