Stretch marks are known since ancient times and represent one of the most frequent aesthetic imperfections, especially affecting the female gender. They look like longitudinal «grooves», parallel to each other, located on the side of the abdomen and / or side of the thighs, separated by healthy areas. The development of the defect is associated with damage to the connective tissue, which is initially associated with inflammatory phenomena, and then replaced by scarring.
Stretch marks have bilateral localization and characteristic orientation. In particular, they precisely follow the Langer lines - the lines in accordance with which the fibers of the superficial muscle fascia are located. The width of stretch marks varies from a few millimeters to 1 - 2 centimeters, and the length can exceed 15 - 20 cm.
The time of occurrence and location of the defect depends on age and gender. «Debut» of stretch marks - from 12 to 16 years with a maximum peak (60 - 90%) - during pregnancy. In men, stretch marks are also found, but much less often.
Causes of Stretch Marks
To understand the mechanism of defect formation, it is necessary to turn to some anatomical aspects. .
Dermis is a connective tissue consisting of a dense network of fibers and a large number of cells immersed in the main substance. Dermis fibers: collagen (fibrous glycoprotein) and elastin (thinner than collagen fibers, have significant elastic properties).
A basic or amorphous substance consists of glucose-derived macromolecules called glycosaminoglycan. The main reason for the appearance of stretch marks is, first of all, the qualitative and quantitative structural modification of collagen and elastin fibers.
The skin with stripes, in comparison with «healthy», has a non-compact skin matrix.
In fact, in the dermis not affected by the grooves, one can note the presence of a well-formed extracellular matrix containing collagen, elastin and microfibrils. At the same time, the matrix of the dermis affected by stretch marks is less compact, it has a higher content of the basic substance and a reduced amount of collagen and elastin fibers.
Symptoms of Stretch Marks
Stretch marks are appeared in the form of linear and spindle-shaped atrophic lesions, covered with thin, smooth or slightly folded skin. They do not have hair follicles, sweat glands or melanocytes. The onset is usually asymptomatic, but can sometimes be accompanied by mild itching, less often - burning and painful sensations.
The formation of stretch marks is determined in three stages: the phase of inflammation, the initial cicatricial phase and the final cicatricial phase.
The phase of inflammation lasts from several months to two years. This is the period in which stretch marks slowly form and acquire a color from pink to intense red. In this phase, the surface is usually smooth. In the initial cicatricial phase, the atrophic process begins and the strips become thinner, the skin is «pleated», pale pink.
Final cicatricial phase: atrophic grooves acquire a white or pearlescent color. Collagen fibers have an irregular structure, elastic fibers are fragmented or absent in the center of the lesion, and are folded along the edges. Fibroblasts repair the damaged area, forming vascular scar tissue.
One of the factors causing this phenomenon is the negative effect of estrogen on collagen synthesis, which explains the significant prevalence of pathology in women.
A family affinity for stretch marks is noted, and their presence is characteristic of some genetically determined diseases in which a hereditary defect affects the connective tissue (Marfan syndrome).
The determining factor in the pathogenesis of iatrogenic stretch marks is systemic therapy with cortisone and the use of anabolics. The main characteristic of such stretch marks is the unusual localization, the onset rate, and a more pronounced clinical aspect.
Excessive physical activity, sudden changes in weight have a significant effect on the formation of stretch marks.
How to get rid of stretch marks?
It is important to know that stretch marks can be removed only in the early stages. Help may come: chemical peels, mesotherapy, microdermabrasion, laser resurfacing.
To find a solution to the problem and determine the optimal treatment method, you should consult a dermatologist or cosmetologist at the Bogoliuby MC for a preliminary consultation
If the grooves are «old» and have already been replaced with scar tissue, unfortunately, they will not be able to completely get rid of them.