What are Stretch Marks?
Almost everyone has stretch marks. Unfortunately, no one likes the way they look - even if they're a "badge of honor" for women who've survived pregnancy, or a telltale sign of an adolescent growth spurt. Considerable energy has been invested in efforts to get rid of stretch marks, with less than satisfactory results. Topical creams, the most popular conventional treatment, have left most people wondering, "Why did I bother in the first place?"
There are two basic varieties of stretch marks: white and red. Older, mature stretch marks are commonly white or silver-colored; newer stretch marks tend to be reddish or purple in color. Light-based technologies are now available to treat both types of stretch marks non-invasively, allowing them to gently fade into memory? where most people think they belong.
What are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks closely resemble scars. In fact, stretch marks are the most common types of skin lesions. About 90% of pregnant women get stretch marks. They also affect 70% of adolescent females and about 40% of young males. In medical terminology, stretch marks are called striae. Mature stretch marks are devoid of color, and newer stretch marks are often red or purplish in color.
Stretch marks develop when the skin is excessively stretched, damaging the collagen fibers and proteins in the underlying skin layer called the dermis. Scientists believe that shattering of collagen leads to dilation of small blood vessels (called capillaries) that results in red or purple-colored early stretch marks. Inflammation and collagen remodeling may lead to the loss of pigment-producing, melanocyte cells or obscuring of melanin pigment. Over time, this lack of pigment results in the white or hypopigmented scars that most people associate with mature stretch marks. Stretch marks are a form of leukoderma.
Growth spurts and sudden or excessive weight gain cause stretch marks to form in young people. Young women commonly get them on their breasts, thighs, hips and buttocks. Young men often develop stretch marks from participating in certain body-altering sports such as weightlifting or from the use of dangerous bodybuilding steroid drugs. Women commonly develop stretch marks on their lower abdomen in the last months of pregnancy.
There is nothing that can prevent the formation of stretch marks - especially during pregnancy or during a growth spurt. Creams and lotions may ease the itchy sensation associated with stretch marks, but they won't keep them from forming.
For years topical creams have been used to treat the appearance of stretch marks; unfortunately they have yielded less than satisfactory results.
Topical formulations containing retinoids (vitamin A-derivatives) can be effective in treating early, red, inflammatory stretch marks, but they have proven to be ineffective in improving the appearance of mature stretch marks.
Applications of glycolic acid and creams with L-ascorbic acid on a daily basis may slightly improve the appearance of mature, white stretch marks. Overall, however, results have been disappointing.
Both early and mature stretch marks respond to new light-based technologies providing non-invasive, gentle treatments that can help affected skin more closely match its natural color.
Mature Stretch Marks Treatment Option: ReLume™ Phototherapy
ReLume is the first technological breakthrough to offer a practical treatment solution for leukoderma (literally, "white skin") skin conditions in which pigment loss has occurred. ReLume combines the benefits of safe and effective UV phototherapy with the latest advances in targeted light technology to achieve selective repigmentation of hypopigmented skin. The procedure is painless and safe for all skin types.
Treatments using ReLume are fast and non-invasive. Many people schedule appointments during their lunch hours. Patients usually require brief sessions once or twice a week; improvement in the appearance of mature stretch marks is routinely achieved within six to fifteen treatments.
Red Stretch Marks Treatment Option: Intense Pulsed Light™ (IPL)
Many physicians are finding IPL a successful approach for reducing the appearance of hyperpigmented (dark red) scars, including new stretch marks. This non-invasive, gentle approach uses targeted flashes of light to treat dilated and broken blood vessels without injuring the surrounding healthy skin.
Practitioners determine an IPL treatment plan for each patient, taking into account the number and severity of skin conditions being addressed. On average, a series of four to six treatments is recommended, scheduled at three-week intervals. Each session usually lasts about 20 minutes, with patients returning to normal activity immediately. By dividing the full program into several sessions, IPL treatments provide gradual, natural improvement with excellent long term results.
What causes stretch marks?
Stretch marks develop when the skin is excessively stretched during pregnancy, weight gain or growth spurts. Dermal collagen is damaged and blood vessel dilation results in the formation of red or purple-colored early stretch marks. Inflammation and collagen remodeling may lead to the loss of pigment-producing melanocyte cells or obscuring of melanin pigment. Over time, this lack of pigment results in the white or hypopigmented scars that most people associate with mature stretch marks.
Who gets stretch marks?
About 90% of pregnant women get stretch marks. Growth spurts and sudden or excessive weight gain cause stretch marks in young people. They affect 70% of adolescent females and about 40% of young males. Young women commonly get them on their breasts, thighs, hips, abdomen and buttocks. Young people often develop stretch marks from participating in certain body-altering sports such as weightlifting or from the use of dangerous bodybuilding steroid drugs.
What is ReLume™ Phototherapy?
ReLume is a targeted light technology for the selective restoration of pigment in scars affected by hypopigmentation or leukoderma. ReLume is the first advanced technology to offer a practical and convenient solution for treatment of skin that has diminished pigmentation. For leukoderma that occurs on stretch marks, acne scars, post-surgical and traumatic scars, grafted skin, burns and laser-resurfaced or chemically peeled skin, lost pigment can now be restored safely and effectively, often within several weeks.
How does ReLume Phototherapy work?
The ReLume system's unique, light-based therapy improves the appearance of mature stretch marks by pigmenting skin through precise delivery of therapeutic light. This enhances the production of melanin to darken the coloration of the stretch mark so it more closely matches the surrounding healthy skin. Within six to fifteen weekly treatments, 75% or more pigmentation is typically restored. Prolonged improvement can be achieved through maintenance treatments.
What skin conditions does ReLume treat?
The ReLume has received marketing clearance from the FDA for the treatment of leukoderma (skin that has reduced pigmentation such as white, mature stretch marks, acne scars, traumatic and surgical scars, skin grafts, burns and laser-resurfaced and chemically peeled skin). ReLume is intended for use on all skin types (I - VI).
How do ReLume treatments compare to topical creams and other treatment alternatives?
According to physicians, conventional therapies are largely ineffective in treating hypopigmented mature stretch marks and scars. Now, the ReLume provides an innovative and effective leukoderma solution with no downtime.
What do patients experience during ReLume treatments?
Treatments are fast and non-invasive. Physicians or staff members can administer rapid treatments during a patient's lunch hour. Patients experience no discomfort during the procedure and can resume normal daily activities immediately afterwards. Patients may experience minor and temporary redness or irritation within several hours after treatments. These side effects are no more extensive than a mild sunburn. Physicians or staff members can adjust the light dosage used in treatments to minimize these side effects. The primary precaution recommended for patients is the use of protective eye ware.
What improvements can be seen after treatment with ReLume?
Restoration of lost pigment is routinely achieved within six to fifteen treatments. Patients will notice a darkening of the stretch mark so that the coloration more closely matches surrounding skin.
How do patients maintain the improved appearance of treated stretch marks?
Prolonged improvement can be achieved through regular maintenance treatments with ReLume. Lighter skin types (types I - III) will typically benefit from monthly maintenance treatments; darker skin types (types IV - VI) may require less frequent maintenance treatments.
How are IPL™ Skin Treatments used to treat new stretchmarks?
Many physicians are finding IPL a successful approach for reducing the appearance of new, reddish scars and stretch marks. This non-invasive, gentle approach uses targeted flashes of light to treat dilated and broken blood vessels.
What are IPL Skin Treatments?
IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) Skin Treatments use a non-invasive process called Photorejuvenation to improve the appearance of the skin. It is an in-office procedure performed by a physician or a trained staff member. Treatment programs are developed for each patient based on the number and severity of conditions being treated. Typically, fourto six sessions are scheduled at three-week intervals. Treatments last approximately 20 minutes in length.
What can IPL Skin Treatments treat?
IPL Skin Treatments have the unique capacity to treat multiple conditions. They can address the signs of photo-aging, age spots and sun damage (sun-induced freckles), broken capillaries, pigmentary and vascular changes, as well as treating red scars and new stretch marks. IPL treats hyperpigmentation by reducing the effects of excess hemoglobin, which cause redness or purple coloration, and the effects of excess melanin, which cause brown coloration.
How are IPL Skin Treatments performed?
Before treatment, a thin layer of cold gel is usually applied to the area to be treated, and patients are given protective eye wear to shield the eyes from the bright light. During treatment, the smooth glass surface of the IPL handpiece is gently applied to the skin, delivering pulses of light to the area being treated. IPL treatments are usually pain-free, but an anesthetic cream can be used if necessary. Some patients describe the sensation as a light pinch or compare it to the snap of a rubber band against their skin.
Immediately after treatment, patients return to normal routines and activities. Occasionally, there may be signs of treatment such as redness or blotchiness that last for several hours.
Why are multiple treatments necessary?
By dividing the full IPL program into several treatments, the procedure provides gradual, natural-looking improvement with very low discomfort or risk. Results are long-lasting, usually a year or longer.
Are ReLume and IPL treatments covered by insurance?
Insurance reimbursement varies from state to state and carrier to carrier. While most insurance companies do not offer reimbursement for cosmetic conditions, it's best to consult with individual carriers for more information.
Are ReLume and IPL Treatments FDA-cleared?
ReLume was FDA-cleared to market in 2002 for the treatment of leukoderma, or skin conditions in which pigment loss has occurred. Patented IPL technology has been available and FDA-cleared since 1995. IPL treatments using the Photorejuvenation process are recognized as safe, effective, and high in patient satisfaction. In addition to treatment of benign vascular and pigmented conditions, scar treatments are included in the IPL FDA clearance.
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