Weight loss from bariatric surgery or dietary and lifestyle changes will lead to significant changes in your physical appearance. With few exceptions, people have generalized areas of fat and excess skin after weight loss.
Causes of Excess Skin After Weight Loss
According to Dr. Joseph F. Capella, a plastic surgeon who specializes in body contouring after massive weight loss, the primary cause of excess skin after weight loss surgery is relatively simple. When pregnant, muscles, skin and other tissues of the abdominal wall expand to accommodate the fetus. A similar process occurs with the accumulation of fat in the body. There are important differences however.
The process of fat accumulation in morbidly obese individuals often begins during childhood or adolescence, prolonging the period of tension on the skin. In addition, the area of tissue expansion in obesity is generalized rather than mostly limited to the abdomen.
With weight loss following the delivery of a baby, the affected tissues tend to retract. When the tissues do not return to their previous state it is because they have been permanently damaged. Such is the case with massive weight loss after a lifetime of obesity. In the case of excess skin after weight loss, the elastic fibers have been broken. This can give the appearance of striae, commonly known as stretch marks. This condition is often seen on the breasts and abdomen following pregnancy.
Fat also collects in the tissues below the skin, and the abdominal wall muscles become relaxed. Both conditions cause the lower abdomen to become more prominent. How closely the skin and other tissues resemble the way they were before pregnancy or obesity depends on similar factors.
Criteria for Excess Skin After Weight Loss Surgery
There are a number of criteria that effect how much excess skin after weight loss a person will have:
According to Dr. Capella, probably the most important determinant is age. Younger patients tend to have less loose skin.
The next most important factor is the amount of weight lost. An individual who dropped 250 pounds will be more likely to have more excess skin after weight loss than someone who lost 80 pounds.
Other factors include complexion, amount of sun exposure over a lifetime, heredity, and whether or not the person is a smoker.
Fair skinned people in general tend to develop more loose skin than darker individuals.
Frequent sun bathers have more tissue damage over the years and consequently more excess skin after weight loss.
Some people tend to have “better” skin than others of similar complexion and lifestyle. This may be the result of hereditary factors that are not readily apparent.
Finally, smoking breaks down collagen, a major component of skin and other structural components of the body. Smokers have more excess skin after weight loss than their non-smoking counterparts.
The combination of loose skin, excessive fat and relaxed muscles is usually not corrected with dieting and exercise. An abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck after bariatric surgery can resolve these problems.
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