By Dr. Nivedita Dadu, Dermatology
Stretch marks are scars or fine lines that usually appear on the skin when a person gains weight or grows quickly – for example during puberty. This drastic change causes skin elastin and collagen to rupture. Stretch marks may develop as the skin heals.
The skin has three layers. Stretch marks usually appear in the middle layer or dermis when the connective tissue is extended beyond its limits. This happens because of rapid contraction or expansion of the skin. As the connecting fibres in the dermis gradually stretch to accommodate slow growth, it leads to sudden stretching. As a result, the dermis tears and exposes deeper skin layers.
Both men and women can develop stretch marks. However, these are more common in women and usually appear on the thighs, hips, belly, breasts, lower back, and the upper arms.
Conditions Causing Stretch Marks -
Stretch marks are caused due to the following conditions –
- Pregnancy – over 50% of pregnant women experience stretch marks after or during childbirth
- Rapid weight gain or weight loss
- Growth spurts during puberty
- Rapid muscle growth due to intense weight training
Signs and Symptoms -
Before stretch marks start showing up, the skin may appear pink and thin. It may also feel wrinkly, itchy or irritated.
Initially, the scars may appear as raised, narrow, long purple, pink, red, dark brown or reddish brown streaks, depending on your skin colour. Eventually, the streaks fade, flatten and tend to change colour – turning into silver patches over time.
When to See a Dermatologist?
Stretch marks do not typically pose a danger and are often temporary. However, these are unsightly and common. For most people, the scars and fine lines are a major cosmetic concern affecting their everyday activities – causing anxiety and problems related to self-image. If you notice stretch marks on different parts of your body, you should consult a certified dermatologist. He/she can help you manage the scars and get rid of the ugly marks, and improve your skin texture.