Stretch marks are never a welcome sight. These deep, dermal tears that cause purple or pink lines in the skin, can be distressing to many people. Though their occurrence is rarely welcomed, it can often be anticipated. Stretch marks seem to form at certain times of life. There are periods when we are much more susceptible to these troublesome marks.
What Causes Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are the result of the over stretching of the skin and tearing of the dermal layer. Under certain conditions levels of glucocorticoids increase in the body and contribute to the development of stretch marks. Glucocorticoids are secreted by the adrenal glands during times of stress. The hormone affects fibroblast repair and makes the skin more susceptible to stretch marks. Unfortunately, glucocorticoids increase during times when the skin is likely to be stretched.
As if there isn’t enough to deal with when going through the trials of puberty. Stretch marks often make there first appearance at this vulnerable time of life. During puberty, young bodies are growing rapidly, add to this the increased glucocorticoids levels that occur at this time, and you have the perfect recipe for the appearance of stretch marks.
The majority of women develop stretch marks in the later months of pregnancy. The most common area affected is the abdomen, but other areas such as the breasts and hips are often affected as well.
Weight lifting stresses the body which results in increased glucocoricoid production. Rapid muscle growth stretches the skin in a similar way to the growth spurts of puberty. Taking anabolic steroids increases the likelyhood of developing stretch marks through weight lifting.
Some illnesses predispose a person to developing stretch marks. These are often conditions that affect the adrenal or pituitary glands. Some of the illnesses that are associated with an increase of stretch marks are: Cushing’s syndrome, Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and pituitary tumors.
Certain medical treatments can cause thinning of the skin and leave it more susceptible to stretch marks. Systemic steroid therapy can lead to the development of stretch marks, as can the repeated use of topical hydrocortisone creams.
Prevention and Treatment
There are many creams and lotions designed to prevent stretch marks, though scientific evidence on their effectiveness is slim. Cocoa butter has been used for generations for this purpose. Unlike some other products, cocoa butter is considered safe to use during pregnancy. The act of massaging any cream into the skin may be somewhat helpful. This is probably due to the massaging action increasing circulation of blood to the skin. To get the most benefit, massage the cream or lotion into the susceptible areas on a regular basis.
Although distressing, stretch marks generally fade considerable with time. There are many creams and treatments that are designed to speed this process up. Alpha hydroxy acids, retinols and laser treatment can all be used to diminish the appearance of stretch marks.