Stretch marks, known medically as “striae,” are whitish or pinkish lines, most often present on the hips, thighs, buttocks, stomach and breasts. Stretch marks are small scars caused by tears in the skin that occur as a result of the skin quickly being stretched. Stretch marks usually occur in adolescence during a growth spurt, during pregnancy when the abdomen is quickly expanding or any time rapid weight gain occurs. Although stretch marks are not dangerous, many people find them to be unsightly. Stretch marks often fade on their own over time, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some people, however, may opt to get them removed if they cannot stand the look of stretch marks on their skin. A doctor can prescribe a medicated cream to fade stretch marks, or individuals can opt to get them removed quickly with the help of laser surgery.
Laser Surgery Procedure
Laser surgery is a procedure that is performed by a cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist and is effective in removing stretch marks from the skin. The doctor will determine whether pulsed dye laser therapy or an excimer laser will be used. Pulsed dye laser therapy stimulates collagen growth, according to the Mayo Clinic, making the stretch marks fade. This process works best for new stretch marks. For older stretch marks, the Mayo Clinic suggests excimer laser surgery, which stimulates melanin to change the pigment of the scarring. Although the stretch marks will still be present, they will be less apparent because their color will more closely match the patient’s skin.
Laser surgery is usually performed at the dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon’s office without anesthesia, although anesthesia may be recommended for patients with particularly sensitive skin. Depending on the size of the area and the number of stretch marks, the process may take from several minutes up to an hour. Some patients, especially those with large or numerous stretch marks, may require multiple treatments.
Laser Surgery Results
Patients who have undergone stretch mark removal surgery can go home the day of the procedure. According to the Los Angeles Laser Center, the appearance of the stretch marks will continue to improve from three to six months after the surgery. Stretch marks that are newer usually respond better to surgery than stretch marks that are older. The Los Angeles Laser Center states that about 70 percent of patients notice a difference after getting surgery for stretch marks. After surgery, the patient may notice swelling in the area or redness around the stretch marks. Tenderness and throbbing pain in the area are normal, but ordinarily laser surgery requires no recovery time.