What Are Stretch Marks?
Each and every person may get stretch marks irrespective of age, sex, general health, life situation etc. However, these factors can make a favorable situation for stretch marks in many cases.
Stretch marks appear as a result of excessive stretching of the skin for a prolonged period of time, which in turn, results in the rupture of collagen fibers in the skin. This causes cosmetic problems due to the appearance of pinkish or silvery white lines in different parts of the body.
Beauty–consciousness is an innate weakness of man. Hence, most of us leave no stone unturned in improving our looks. The skin is considered the mirror of the human body and reflects the physical, mental and emotional status of every individual.
Therefore, the care of skin naturally assumes utmost significance in beauty care.
The number of people attending beauty clinics and dermatology departments is increasing day by day. Even though skin diseases have a negligible mortality rate, most people are worried about skin problems on account of the social stigma.
A person with a disease involving an internal organ may not be as worried as another suffering from a skin ailment in view of the simple reason that everyone can expressly notice the change in the latter in the form of a distortion or plain ugliness.
STRUCTURE OF THE SKIN
The skin has three layers – The outer layer called the epidermis, the inner one called the hypodermis and the dermis in between these two. The epidermis is made up of keratinocytes and melanocytes. The dermis contains fibers made up of proteins such as collagen and elastin with a gel like ground substance to fill the gap between the protein fibers. The inner hypodermis contains fat and connective tissues with blood vessels and nerves.
Collagen: It is a structural protein that forms 80% of connective tissues. It acts as a cementing substance between body cells. The rate of tissue repair depends on the production of collagen. Conditions that hamper collagen formation can delay wound healing.
Elastin: It is also a protein that maintains the elasticity of the skin. Along with collagen and glycosaminoglycans it forms the connective tissue.
The human skin has got several functions such as protection, heat regulation, water balance, excretion etc. It supports the deep body structures and is capable of
stretching to some extent due to the presence of elastic protein fibers in the dermis. But too fast enlargement of the body parts cause excessive stretching of the skin, resulting in the breaking of collagen and elastin fibers of the dermis. This causes a slightly depressed discoloration called stria atrophia or stretch marks. Initially these marks are slightly pinkish and later become white or silvery in appearance.
FACTORS AFFECTING THE SKIN
Certain factors are closely related with the quality of the skin. The color of the skin changes according to racial and genetic factors. A healthy skin should be elastic and free from excess dryness. It should be free from lesions such as eruptions, macules, papules, vesicles, pustules etc.
The following factors are closely related with the quality of skin.
- Hereditary factors
- Environmental factors
- Food intake
- Water intake
- General health
- Sensitivity towards external factors
- Self care
- Mental and emotional status
- Life style
Different medical terms are used to denote stretch marks.
- Striae atrophicae.
Striae cutis distensae.
Stria gravidarum (stretch marks during pregnancy).
SOME MYTHS ABOUT STRETCH MARKS
- Only women are affected by stretch marks.
- Only obese and pregnant ladies get stretch marks.
- They persist forever.
- They increase with time.
- They spread allover the body.
- Stretch marks indicate ill health.
- They indicate loss of physical beauty.
- They can progress to leucoderma.
- They are contagious.
Treating & Preventing STRETCH MARKS Video
SOME FACTS ABOUT STRETCH MARKS
1. Both sexes are affected by stretch marks.
2. People in both extremes of life are affected.
3. Both obese and slim people get stretch marks.
4. 70% of teenage girls get stretch marks.
5. 90% of pregnant ladies get stretch marks.
6. Stretch marks may persist for a long time but become less noticeable later.
7. Regular exercise prevents stretch marks, whereas vigorous exercise and bodybuilding can result in stretch marks.
8. Modern treatment methods are effective, but expensive.
9. Chemical peeling and laser therapy may cause pain and scarring.
10. Natural methods are cheap and free from side effects.
HOW STRETCH MARKS ARE FORMED
Stretch marks are slightly depressed linear marks with varying length and breath found on certain parts of the body in conditions like pregnancy, obesity, puberty etc due to the excessive stretching of skin for a long period.
It has already been mentioned that the quality and strength of the skin depends on certain factors like general health, nutrition, hydration, hereditary factors, environmental conditions, hygiene, healthcare, skin care etc.
A healthy skin can be stretched to some extent especially when the enlargement of skin is gradual. But when the body surface area increases in a short span of time there will be excessive stretching of the skin resulting in breaking of collagen and elastin present in the dermis.
When these protein fibers break, some kind of itching may be felt, but no pain. Along with breaking of fibers there will be dilatation of small blood vessels present in the skin, which results in red or purple stretch marks called stria rubra.
Later, with the advancement of time there will be remodeling of skin with loss of melanin in the affected area and this causes them to become pale and silvery white in color. Now it is called stria alba. However in such cases they may appear as faint pale markings.
The length of stretch marks may vary and their average width is 1 to 10 mm. They are seen parallel to each other and make an angle of 90 with the direction of stretching of skin. These markings are actually formed in the deep tissues of the skin and gradually they appear on the skin surface.
The usual sites are abdomen, buttocks, breasts, thighs, shoulders etc.