What are they?
Stretch marks look like thin, stretched tissue, and that is more or less what they are. They appear in people who put on or lose weight rapidly. The upper layer of the skin is normal, but in the lower layer the collagen and elastin, which give the skin its strength and elasticity, have become thinner and broken. At first, the marks look reddish-purple. This is because the stretched skin is more transparent and the small blood vessels that lie deep in the skin show through. Later, the blood vessels contract. The purplish colour then fades to white, which is simply fat under the skin showing through.
Who gets them?
- Stretch marks often appear on the breast and abdomen during pregnancy. The reason is partly hormonal. During pregnancy, hormones have the job of softening the collagen ligaments of the pelvis, so that the tissues can stretch easily during childbirth. Unfortunately, the skin collagen softens as well, allowing stretch marks to form easily.
- Some women have weaker collagen than others, so are more likely to get stretch marks. Recent research suggests that if you have stretch marks, your pelvic floor ligaments may be slightly weak, so it is very important to do pelvic floor exercises after childbirth to prevent incontinence of urine.
- Yo-yo dieters and bodybuilders can get stretch marks on the upper arms, chest and thighs.
- Growing adolescents can get them on their backs, where they look like a series of horizontal lines.
Preventing stretch marks
Curing stretch marks
Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Last updated: Thursday, September 6th 2012
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