A pregnancy or a radical weight reduction often leave unattractive stretch marks. Pregnancy marks, known in medicine as striae distensae, are a special subtype of stretch marks.
Because of them many patient feel intimidated by their own skin and want to remove the stretch marks. They want to see a clear improvement of their skin health which will make them feel better and regain their self-esteem.
Stretch marks are usually caused by a significant increase in weight in a certain area of the body. Therefore, the skin is altered during pregnancy, especially on the abdomen and the breast areas. Other potentially affected body regions are the buttocks, thighs or upper arms.
However, during pregnancy stretch marks in these areas are rare and rather small. One possible reason for the formation of stretch marks is a genetically determined weakness of connective tissue. In the context of pregnancy, their formation can also be caused by hormones. Because of the changes that the body experiences, the skin tissue overstretches and eventually tears. The typical bluish-red color of the marks is caused by the blood vessels lying close to the skin.
One thing you should know in advance: stretch marks are a purely cosmetic problem and do not cause any health limitations. Nevertheless, many affected persons want to restore the normal condition of their skin. However, patients should bear in mind that so far it is medically impossible to completely eliminate the stretch marks. Still, there are several methods that can weaken the appearance of the scarred lines. This makes the stretch marks less noticeable.
Simple methods that do not demand surgical intervention are ultrasound treatments or cream or oil applications. Regularly applying creams containing vitamin A acid is an example of this type of treatment. In addition, by using chemical peeling with glycolic acid it is possible to reduce the stretch marks. You can also choose one of these options.
- Laser treatment
Many physicians describe laser treatment as the most effective solution to pregnancy marks and stretch marks. In this method, lasers penetrate the affected skin areas and stimulate the regeneration of the damaged connective tissue. Using high-energy light impulses the laser light is distributed on the affected skin areas. It activates the natural healing process in the body. New collagen is formed under the skin. The scars created by the pregnancy marks get lighter and are clearly less visible after the laser treatments. The skin feels firmer on the treated spots.
To achieve an effective result of laser therapies three to five sessions are required. These sessions take place with the intervals of two to four weeks. The best results are visible after about four to five months.
The healing period after each laser treatment session is about one week. During this period, patients should mind the following:
- The skin is reddened and slightly swollen.
- The body needs rest to recover after the procedure.
- The patient should take good care of their skin and, if possible, not expose it to sunlight.
The risks of laser treatment are relatively low. Nevertheless, the procedure is associated with slight pain. The aftercare is particularly important. Failing to comply with the recommendations of the laser treatment specialists can at worst result in unsatisfactory outcome.
However, many dermatologists recommend laser treatment, as it causes almost no incrustations or sores. In addition, the chances of success with appropriate treatments are quite large.
In microdermabrasion, a physician removes the top layer of the skin. This method of treatment does not cause pain and stimulates the elasticity of the skin. Those who want to achieve a particularly effective result from microdermabrasion can combine this method with glycolic acid treatment.
Dermabrasion, on the other hand, is performed under a short sedation or local anesthesia. The surface of the skin is rubbed with a diamond grinding wheel. This stimulates the skin to form new cells. The look of the skin improves.
There is no exact timeframe for microdermabrasion or dermabrasion. Generally, dermatologists or other specialist physicians continue the treatment until fine blood dots appear on the skin. The corresponding skin areas are then anointed with ointment and bandaged.
If you want to achieve permanent and well visible results with a microdermabrasion, the skin should be treated at first every week and then every other week. An adequate care after the treatment improves the chances of a successful healing. Again, it is important to stay away from sunlight. The more extensive the treatment, the longer the healing period.
If the depth of treatment is too low, the stretch marks and pregnancy marks may not be removed to the desired extent. Another risk is related to damage of the deeper tissue layers, which can at worst persist for a long time. In addition, there are following risks associated with the intervention:
- Formation of big scars in case of wound healing disorders,
- Bleeding/secondary bleeding,
- Nerve damages (partially accompanied with numbness).
However, the fact that microdermabrasion or dermabrasion usually help to achieve a significant improvement of the skin look outweigh these disadvantages. One advantage is that the treatment can be easily repeated if the result is insufficient. However, patients should be aware that this therapy does not stop the skin aging process.
Surgery of the affected skin areas is usually carried out together with an abdominoplasty. This procedure is used to remove the stretch marks and the excess skin tissue.
The removal of skin and fatty tissue during the abdominoplasty is done via a skin incision, which is slightly curved horizontally over the pubic hair. The length of the incision and its extension depend on the size of the treated area on the lower abdomen. The scar usually runs in the bikini area and is therefore hidden under the swimwear or underwear.
Another incision is made directly on the navel, unless it is should be modelled or moved. The entire abdominal wall is then detached up to the lower edge of the rib arch on the abdominal muscle wall and then pulled downwards. The excess skin with the stretch marks in the form of an ellipse is removed and after the navel is placed, the skin part is fixed again with self-dissolving seams. The abdominal muscle wall is then tightened again with special sutures. To enhance the effect the mons pubis can be tightened during the operation.
The duration of the surgical treatment depends on the individual circumstances. However, in combination with a tummy tuck, the surgical procedure usually lasts for several hours. A mini abdominoplasty lasts for at least 1.5 hours. A normal abdominoplasty requires 2.5 hours.
If the removal of the stretch marks and the abdominoplasty are performed together, patients must expect a five to seven days of hospital stay. This period covers the first part of the recovery phase. It will take a few more weeks during which the patient will have to deal with certain physical restrictions caused by the intervention. For example, wearing a supporting abdominal binder is often essential. To achieve a more effective healing, patients should consider the following:
- Take adequate care of the wound to avoid infection.
- Refrain from taking nicotine and alcohol before the operation and during the healing process.
It is reasonable to have this operation performed only if stretch marks are on the abdomen. This procedure is not recommended for removing the stretch marks on the buttocks and legs. Patients should be aware that the surgical removal of the stretch marks usually results in new scars. Therefore, personal curing prospects should play a decisive role. However, the doctors perform the surgery in such a way that the intervention incision marks are limited to the pubic area. Unfortunately, wound healing disorders, swelling, a feeling of tension or sensitivity disorders cannot be completely ruled out. In the worst case, a follow-up operation is necessary.
However, the patients benefit from a treatment with a high chance of success. Because during the operation the abdominal skin is tightened and hanging skin flaps are efficiently eliminated. It is recommended to have this treatment carried out if you no longer wish to have children. Otherwise, the risk that the skin will become saggy again is very high.
Whether you should consider having pregnancy marks removed often depends on the extent of the stretch marks. Another crucial question of how disturbing the patient considers the scarred lines. In general, the pros and cons should serve as an important decision-making aid.
- All properly applied cosmetic surgeries significantly smoothen the stretch marks.
- Patients may choose their favorite therapy approach.
- Stretch marks removal usually contributes to an improvement of personal well-being.
- Irritating symptoms like a limited skin flexibility are alleviated.
- With the exception of a surgery, all other methods do not lead to a complete removal of the stretch marks.
- As a rule, health insurance companies do not cover the interventions.
- Laser treatments, dermabrasion and others cause pain in the early days and require special aftercare.
- Unpleasant side effects cannot be completely excluded from the procedures.
The cost of laser treatments varies. Each session will cost the patient about 75 to 100 euros.
The cost of a microdermabrasion or dermabrasion depends on the affected skin areas and the duration of the treatments. In general, however, patients must expect a price of 60 to 180 euros per session.
If you want to have the stretch marks removed surgically, you have to plan a financial expenditure of about 5,000 euros.