People who lose a significant amount of weight are often left with excess loose skin. A number of plastic surgery procedures are available to correct the problem of loose skin and restore a more natural appearance to the body. These procedures, known as body contouring, are increasing in popularity as more Americans undergo weight loss surgery. According to the Columbia University Division of Plastic Surgery, more than 55,000 body contouring procedures were performed in the United States in 2007.
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Causes of Loose Skin
If you have lost an extreme amount of weight, whether through weight loss surgery or through diet and exercise, you may find that you have loose skin remaining. As skin ages, it loses collagen and elasticity and is often unable to return to its original size after it has stretched. The amount of excess skin depends on how much weight you have lost, as well as your age. Excess skin is particularly likely if you were previously obese enough to qualify for weight loss surgery.
Problems Caused by Excess Skin
Loose skin can be problematic for a number of reasons. It can cause frustration and continued low self-esteem for those who have worked hard at attaining their goal weight. It can interfere with daily activities, alter the shape of your body and make it hard to fit into your clothes. Some people also have difficulty keeping loose folds of skin clean; excess skin can rub and chafe, causing irritation or infection.
Procedures that remove excess skin and correct the shape of the body are known as body contouring. After significant weight loss, you can choose from a variety of body contouring procedures to refine the shape of your body and restore it to a more natural appearance. Body contouring also includes removing stubborn fat deposits that do not respond to diet and exercise.
Types of Body Contouring
According to DocShop, the most popular form of body contouring is liposuction, a procedure in which your doctor removes fat cells from specific parts of the body. An abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck, removes excess fat and skin from the midsection and surgically tightens the abdominal muscles. You can undergo an abdominoplasty individually or combine in with a full body lift, which also targets the thighs, arms and buttocks. Female patients may wish to undergo a breast lift, which can also include augmentation or reduction.
Body contouring procedures are extensive surgeries that require general anesthesia. It is important to understand that you may be left with numerous or long scars after surgery. Consult with a qualified plastic surgeon to determine the proper timing, sequence and staging for your individual needs. Some patients may require multiple procedures to address all of their concerns. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center recommends waiting until you have maintained a stable weight for 2 to 6 months before undergoing body contouring. If you have had weight loss surgery, this may be 12 to 18 months after your initial surgery. Body contouring procedures are generally considered cosmetic procedures and, as such, are typically not covered by insurance. Check with your insurance provider to see if you have coverage.