Striae, or stretch marks, are formed when the connective collagen fibers of the dermis are stretched beyond their capacity, and the resulting breakage creates scarring. Typically caused by weight gain, pregnancy or hormonal changes, stretch marks are usually found in the abdominal area, arms, hips and upper thighs. They are completely harmless, but they tend to be an embarrassing concern for many women.
Approved by the FDA in 2002, fractional laser therapy is an effective option for the treatment of stretch marks. Unlike traditional laser therapy, which requires more downtime, this type of laser therapy uses an excimer laser that emits very short pulses of energy-rich, ultraviolet light to disrupt the molecular structure of skin tissue. This method reduces the appearance of stretch marks through disintegration of only the top layer of tissue, so major downtime is not required, and the slight heat it emits causes the cell turnover rate in the lower tissue levels to increase, so the skin sloughs off faster.
A: Until recently, the only way to remove stretch marks was through cosmetic surgery. This invasive, painful option, and the downtime it required, made stretch mark removal unattainable for many. Now, fractional laser therapy, using the excimer laser, offers a very effective option for stretch mark removal that causes very little pain, requires no cutting or anesthesia and necessitates very little downtime.
A: When performed by a qualified cosmetic surgeon, laser therapy for stretch marks is known to be an extremely safe procedure, but side effects can occur. Temporary redness and blistering are the most common side effects, and the doctor will discuss these and any other risks prior to performing the procedure.
A: This type of laser therapy is non-invasive and not particularly painful, so sedation is not required. Therefore, preparation is not necessary. However, individuals with a low pain tolerance may choose to take a mild sedative or painkiller before the procedure to reduce discomfort.
A: When removed with laser therapy, stretch marks do not come back, but more than one treatment may be necessary to completely diminish the appearance of deeper stretch marks. Of course, new stretch marks may occur with subsequent pregnancies or weight gains, but they can also be removed with laser therapy.