Rx for Readers: No stretch of the imagination

Will my stretch marks disappear after birth?

rxstretch 521 (photo credit: MCT)
rxstretch 521
(photo credit: MCT)
I am 25 and at the beginning of the ninth month of my first pregnancy. I developed stretch marks all over my belly, and it isn’t a nice sight. I was told from the beginning to use moisturizer to soften the skin, and I did, but it didn’t seem to help at all.
Will the stretch marks fade away or disappear completely, or will they remain visible? Obviously my stomach will shrink after I give birth. Is there anything to do about it after they already appeared? I have often seen on TV the stomachs of models who have previously given birth, and they seem not to have any stretch marks. Do some women not have any permanent marks, or do they cover them up cosmetically? I also heard that there is a genetic tendency for having stretch marks. If so, is this something I can “blame” on my mother? L.R., Tel Aviv
Dr. Julian Schamroth, a veteran Jerusalem dermatologist, replies: Striae or stretch marks occur when the skin is stretched over a short period of time, usually over a few months. It frequently occurs in pregnancy, and is called striae gravidarum.
It is extremely common, with about 50 percent to 90% of women developing it during pregnancy.
Striae can also occur in adolescents who undergo a growth spurt, in bodybuilders (especially if they are taking steroids!), as a result of some medical conditions such as Cushing’s syndrome and with excessive use of potent cortisone creams.
In all these cases, the condition is known as striae distensae. The stretching causes degeneration of connective tissue in the skin and breaking of elastic fibers. Unfortunately, it is irreversible. In pregnancy, it tends to occur mainly on the abdomen, but can also develop on the breasts, thighs and upper arms. It presents as reddish or purple streaks on the skin, which tend to whiten with time. The affected areas also lose their elasticity, so that after delivery the tummy skin tends to sag and hang.
Unfortunately, there is currently no treatment for this condition. Several companies manufacture “miracle”’ creams for stretch marks, but their prices are exorbitant, and their claims are totally unfounded. A limited amount of success can be had by applying topical tretinoin creams (Retin-A), but these creams cause irritation and dryness. There is some research being undertaken with lasers, but the results of such treatment have yet to be evaluated.
As to models who have given birth and appear to have a normal skin, welcome to the wonders of Photoshop! One cannot hide stretch marks. Either the photos have been doctored, or they are taken without showing their stomachs. Alternatively, these models comprise the small percentage who don’t develop these marks... the rest having given up on their modeling.
Last autumn and this season as well, my toddler son has been diagnosed by his pediatrician with foot-and-mouth disease. It involves fever, diarrhea, a rash, blisters on the hands, painful sores in the mouth and itching. Can anything be done to prevent its recurrence? V.N., Yokne’am Dr. Adi Klein, director of the pediatrics department at Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera, comments: This viral condition has been mistakenly called “foot and mouth,” but in fact, this refers only to the condition that affects animals. The human version is called hand-foot and mouth disease. In the last week at my hospital, we had dozens of young children arrive at the emergency room with such symptoms. It appears most frequently in the fall.
It is caused by viruses called Coxsackie, which belong to a virus family known as enterovirus.
These viruses live in the gastrointestinal tract and are thus present in feces.
You described the symptoms correctly, except that not all children get a fever. Like any viral disease, it is spread by contact with saliva or surfaces infected with viruses. It easily spreads in day-care centers, kindergartens and nursery schools.
The condition itself is self-limiting, meaning that it passes by itself, but some things can make it easier for the child. They should be given cold food like ice cream or ice pops, which help relieve the pain. There are claims that goat milk relieves the mouth sores, but this has not been proven scientifically. If the milk is pasteurized, it will cause no harm.
Because children with the condition tend not to eat much, they become dehydrated and are taken to the hospital mostly for this reason. Keep an eye on the child and insist he drinks. If he dehydrates, it’s likely he will need an infusion of liquids.
Hand-foot-and mouth disease is regarded as a mild condition, but rare complications such as meningitis can be serious. To prevent the infection, it is strongly advisable to insist on good hygiene, especially washing hands well to avoid infected saliva and after changing diapers.
Adults rarely get it, because their immune systems usually have developed antibodies against it.
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it to jsiegel@ jpost.com, giving your initials, age and place of residence.