Stretch marks, one of many disorders that affect the skin and a source of worry to many, especially women as we strive for blemish free skin. When a person gains weight really quickly, for instance during puberty, that person may develop some kind of fine lines on the body, usually on the thighs, arms, butts, etc.
Also known as "Striae" stretch marks are a form of scarring on the skin usually with an off-colour hue, caused by the tearing of the inner layer of the skin called the dermis.
According to a Medical Officer in Accra, Dr. Marley Adjei, stretch marks are often the result of rapid stretching of the skin associated with sudden weight gain, especially during pregnancy, muscle building, and in some cases, severe pulling force on the skin that overcomes the dermis' elasticity.
Speaking on the “Vodafone Health Line Radio Show” on Accra based Citi FM, Dr. Marley Adjei said “you get stretch marks when there is a stretching of the dermis, i. e. the inner layer of the skin, and when that happens, it leaves some kind of a scar on the dermis.
Because the epidermis (outer layer) usually gets cleaned, you scrap off levels of that, but because they get replaced every day there is no problem with that, but when you stretch your dermis, it scars out and for both dark and lighter skinned people, those marks develop”.
According dermatologists, the hormones responsible for the development of stretch marks affect the dermis by preventing fibroblasts (cells that secrete collagen proteins to maintain the structural framework of the skin tissues) from forming collagen and elastic fibers necessary for the smoothening up of the skin. When stretching occurs, these fibers break, resulting in the development of stretch marks.
Stretch marks can appear anywhere on the body, but most especially in places where larger amounts of fat are stored, such as the abdomen (especially near the navel), breasts, upper arms, underarms, back, thighs (both inner and outer), hips, and buttocks.
According to Dr. Adjei, though various treatments are available for the purpose of improving the appearance of existing stretch marks, “the effects may never really go away; though there are creams, etc that may lighten the discoloration and tone it down to the skin”, he added.
It must be noted however, according to Dr. Marley Adjei, that excess fat in the blood stream is not a direct cause of stretch marks, but unusual weight gain in the body can cause stretch marks.
Stretch marks however, in themselves, do not compromise the body's ability to function normally.
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