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Friday, May 26, 2017

The Cause of Stretch Marks in Men and Women

Written by: Muoka Chibuzor

In our society today, we see lots of people with stretch marks almost everywhere we go. It’s estimated that 4 out of every 10 adults or teens have stretch marks in some parts of their body. Stretch marks can occur mostly in soft areas of the body that tend to experience incommensurate stress.

Stretch Marks (Striae) can be said to be long or small linear breakings or scarring on the surface of the skin, which affects the external (epidermis) and internal (dermis) conformity of the skin. Stretch marks are noticeable due to external epidermal breakings which occur on the surface of the skin. Often the breakings are characterised by light and dark areas which make it easily noticeable. According to research, stretch marks are caused by tearing of the dermis which is below the epidermis. The dermis is the resilient middle tissue of the skin that helps it retain its shape.

Alteration of the Dermis, gives rise to Stretch Marks.
The presence of stretch marks is often irritating as they tend to increase in size and sometimes become avenues for blood loss in precarious situations. So many people have often asked if Stretch marks are often natural or as a result of environmental impacts on the individual. The fact remains that the cause of stretch marks are not mysterious but can be attributed to several factors which man can be susceptible to.

In some parts of Africa, especially in the Igbo and Yoruba tribes of Nigeria, the presence of stretch marks is usually seen to be a sign of obesity because it tends to appear in areas of the body with fat accumulation. They believe that people who have it must probably be fat at the moment or will be fat in the nearest future, whether they are slim at the moment or not. It has been predominantly seen more in women than in men.

The most obvious consequence of stretch marks is that it usually proves impossible to eradicate once it has started to appear and it can make an individual to avoid socialising when it’s perceived as a stigma or appears in places where it can be easily seen. With advances in dermatology, various medical procedures can be adopted to curtail its progress or eradicate it totally when possible. Although it’s total eradication can prove abortive unless it was curtailed at the earlier stage.

Stretch marks can occur in different parts of the body which include – the breast, shoulder – arm region of the forelimb, elbow, thigh – calf region of the hind limb, buttocks, belly region (abdomen).

The cause of stretch marks has been attributed to so many factors which include the following –

1. Obesity
Obesity occurs when there is an excessive accumulation of body fat to the extent that it has a negative effect on the individual.  Obesity is as a result of an interplay between human behaviour, the environment, and genetic factors. These lead to an abnormal weight gain which eventually leads to expansion of the skin layers.

During skin expansion as a result of obesity, stretch marks are bound to occur due to distortions in the dermal layer which is in charge of skin shape. Although not everyone who is obese experience stretch marks, in most cases obesity serves as the catalyst for stretch marks to appear.

2. Pregnancy
The period of pregnancy leads to weight gain in women. Pregnancy leads to the scarring of the skin layers of the abdominal region due to the unstoppable protrusion of the belly as the fetus develops and also hormonal changes. 
Stretch marks during Pregnancy
Credit - Huffington post
Thus, pregnancy is one of the causes of the stretch marks in the abdominal region. Some women may not experience the abdominal stretch marks in their first pregnancy but may experience it in subsequent pregnancies.

3. Genetics
The gene is very crucial in the tendencies for stretch marks to occur. Currently, some genes have been discovered to be a key player in promoting obesity, which is a catalyst for the occurrence of stretch marks.

There hasn’t been any specific skin gene isolated and said to be responsible for the skin, but the absence or malfunctioning of many genes which interplay and are responsible for providing skin strength and pigmentation leaves the skin to experience stretch marks. For example, Collagen forms the basic structure of the skin and gives it strength and melanin is a pigment that gives the skin its colour. There are genes responsible for their actions and contributions to the fitness of the skin.

We can’t possibly deny the impact of genes in determining our skin type and colour, amid various environmental and other external factors that affect our skin.

4. Cosmetics Misuse (Skin creams)
Mostly women and a few men fall a victim to the misuse of cosmetics. When an individual tends to apply cosmetics that attack the natural contents of the skin in order to look good. He or She is unaware of chemical reactions that occur in the skin whenever that cosmetic is applied. Some women tend to wear cosmetics while sleeping at night and this is a bad habit.

The reigning way of life for most youths is skin bleaching. Skin bleaching medicines work by reducing a pigment called melanin. By applying the medication or bleaching cream which contains hydroquinone to dark areas of the body — melanin production is disrupted allowing the skin to lighten and become more uniform.

The abuse of hydroquinone which is a skin bleaching agent, found in skin cosmetics calls for concern.
We have all likely seen celebrity skin bleaching jobs gone wrong and what overly bleached skin can look like: unnaturally white with a greyish, very dull tint. However, the corpse-like skin is not even the worse of it.

When Hydroquinone is used in doses higher than 2% or over a period longer than three months, the whole skin lightening business can have some pretty negative results. “With higher concentrations of the medicine hydroquinone, there have been reports of the development of exogenous ochronosis, the darkening of the skin which is permanent and very resistant to any treatment.”

An attack on skin strengthening agent collagen can occur leaving the skin layers weak. Also, there’s an Increase in skin sensitivity to sun radiation. And all these makes the skin vulnerable to stretch marks.

5. Ageing
Ageing is the process of getting older. As people get older, various organs and tissues of the body tend to weaken and this does not exclude the skin which is the largest organ in the human body. When the dermis of the skin is weakened, as a result of ageing, stretch marks will possibly appear.

Also, several external factors which act on the skin at a particular age can determine whether stretch marks will occur or not. Little things become more serious as one gets older and the need to avoid excessive indulgence in those little things can help save the skin too.

For example, the application of skin changing cosmetics in old age will definitely have adverse effects of which might not occur if the individual in question has applied those cosmetics in his/her youth. Eating a well-balanced diet and adequate care of the skin, keeps it good looking, even in old age.

6. Medications
Medications refer to drugs that are taken for prophylactic and therapeutic purposes or for other purposes which differ between personalities and of which cannot be far from drug addiction and abuse.

Several medications which include corticosteroid creams, lotions and pills and chronic use of oral or systematic steroids can lead to having stretch marks. Steroids continue to make news and sports headlines as athletes and bodybuilders use them illegally to gain an advantage on the playing field.

Stretch Marks as a result of Steroid Use
The goal of taking anabolic steroids is to increase muscle mass. As they increase muscle mass, they also tamper with the structure of the dermal layer which tends to go out of proportion on continual abuse of steroids. Creating room for stretch marks to occur.

7. Stressful and Straining Manual labour
Manual labour is physical work done by people, without any aid such as machines. It’s done with the hands and with any muscles and bones of the body. A strain is caused by twisting or pulling of muscles or tendons during an activity such as manual labour.

Strains can happen or develop over days or weeks. In as much as one should engage in activities, there are some activities that can be very stressful and pose great strains to the human skin. If one engages in activities that make the skin expand beyond its elastic limits, stretch marks will possibly begin to appear as the individual keeps carrying out such tasks.

People who engage in extreme forms of exercise and gymnastics should retrace their steps as skin and muscle tears can occur. Workers in various companies should ensure that the ergonomic standards set by the employer are not detrimental to their health.

Some people accept works that create great skin strain. They lift heavy objects the wrong way and work over time for more pay, thereby overstressing the muscles and encouraging the possibility of stretch marks.

8. Tight Clothing
Today’s fashion can best be described as being created with the mentality of which shows that the tighter a cloth is, the better fitted it becomes in terms of sexiness and appeal. Most people now put on clothes that keep the skin under constant stress and duress.

Wearing of Too tight wears can cause Stretch Marks
There is no breathing space and no avenue for skin relaxation all in the name of fashion. At the end of the day, stretch marks appear around those areas where the skin experience constant friction with the cloth. Fashion designers should also consider the health of the wearers and the relationship between body proportions and the cloth itself, during the designing of wears.
After effects of wearing too tight cloths and shoes
Conclusion –
Possible prevention of stretch marks. We all know that prevention is better than cure. And in the case of Stretch Marks, a modification of lifestyle will be the most effective remedy that can help prevent the occurrence of stretch marks. There is no evidence that creams that are produced to stop stretch marks are effective. Once they have formed, there is no clearly useful treatment although various treatment methods have been tried.

Consult your dermatologist when you experience stretch marks…

1. Benjamin Wedro MD.  (2015, December 14). What are steroids? Retrieved from Emedicinehealth – http://www.emedicinehealth.com/steroids/article_em.htm    

2. Rennie. (2014, November 11). Five things everyone should know about skin bleaching. Retrieved from The Dermatology group - http://www.thedermatologygroup.com/blog/index.php/five-things-everyone-should-know-about-skin-bleaching/

3. Sarah Siddons (2009, August 20). Which genetic factors affect skin? Retrieved from HowStuffWorks.com – http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/information/health-factors/genetic-factors-affect-skin.htm

4. Stretch Marks. Wikipedia. (Last updated - 2017, April 29). Retrieved from http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stretch_marks

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