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Stretch marks

Striae; Striae atrophica; Striae distensae

Stretch marks are irregular areas of skin that look like bands, stripes, or lines. Stretch marks are seen when a person grows or gains weight rapidly or has certain diseases or conditions.

The medical name for stretch marks is striae.

Considerations

Stretch marks can appear when there is rapid stretching of the skin. The marks appear as parallel streaks of red, thinned, glossy skin that over time become whitish and scar-like in appearance. Stretch marks may be slightly depressed and have a different texture than normal skin.

They are often seen when a woman's abdomen gets larger during pregnancy. They can be found in children who have become rapidly obese. They may also occur during the rapid growth of puberty. Stretch marks are most commonly located on the breasts, hips, thighs, buttocks, abdomen, and flank.

Causes

Causes of stretch marks may include any of the following:

  • Cushing syndrome (disorder that occurs when the body has a high level of the hormone cortisol)
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (disorder marked by very stretchy skin that bruises easily)
  • Abnormal collagen formation, or medicines that block collagen formation
  • Pregnancy
  • Puberty
  • Obesity
  • Overuse of cortisone skin creams

Home Care

There is no specific care for stretch marks. Marks often disappear after the cause of the skin stretching is gone.

Avoiding rapid weight gain helps reduce stretch marks caused by obesity.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If stretch marks appear without clear cause, such as pregnancy or rapid weight gain, call your health care provider.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms, including:

  • Is this the first time that you have developed stretch marks?
  • When did you first notice the stretch marks?
  • What medicines have you taken?
  • Have you used a cortisone skin cream?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

If the stretch marks are not caused by normal physical changes, tests may be done. Tretinoin cream may help reduce stretch marks. Laser treatment may also help. In very rare cases, surgery may be done.

References

James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Abnormalities of dermal fibrous and elastic tissue. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 25.

Patterson JW. Disorders of collagen. In: Patterson JW, ed. Weedon's Skin Pathology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2016:chap 11.

    • Striae in the popliteal fossa

      Striae in the popliteal fossa - illustration

      Striae in the popliteal fossa. Striae or stretch marks result from stretching of the skin, or other influences such as Cushing syndrome. Most pregnant women experience striae at some point during their pregnancy. This picture shows striae in the popliteal fossa (the area on the back side of the leg at the knee joint). When the striae first appear they have a violaceous (red-purple) color, but over time they take-on a dull white appearance.

      Striae in the popliteal fossa

      illustration

    • Striae on the leg

      Striae on the leg - illustration

      Stretch marks (striae) result from rapid stretching of the skin which may occur with obesity, pubertal growth spurts, pregnancy, or from other influences such as Cushing syndrome.

      Striae on the leg

      illustration

    • Stria

      Stria - illustration

      Stretch marks (striae) can appear when there is rapid stretching of the skin. Stretch marks appear as parallel streaks of red, thinned glossy skin that over time become whitish and scarlike in appearance. They are often associated with the abdominal enlargement of pregnancy and can also occur during the rapid growth of puberty in males and females. The stretch marks may be slightly depressed and have a different texture than normal skin.

      Stria

      illustration

      • Striae in the popliteal fossa

        Striae in the popliteal fossa - illustration

        Striae in the popliteal fossa. Striae or stretch marks result from stretching of the skin, or other influences such as Cushing syndrome. Most pregnant women experience striae at some point during their pregnancy. This picture shows striae in the popliteal fossa (the area on the back side of the leg at the knee joint). When the striae first appear they have a violaceous (red-purple) color, but over time they take-on a dull white appearance.

        Striae in the popliteal fossa

        illustration

      • Striae on the leg

        Striae on the leg - illustration

        Stretch marks (striae) result from rapid stretching of the skin which may occur with obesity, pubertal growth spurts, pregnancy, or from other influences such as Cushing syndrome.

        Striae on the leg

        illustration

      • Stria

        Stria - illustration

        Stretch marks (striae) can appear when there is rapid stretching of the skin. Stretch marks appear as parallel streaks of red, thinned glossy skin that over time become whitish and scarlike in appearance. They are often associated with the abdominal enlargement of pregnancy and can also occur during the rapid growth of puberty in males and females. The stretch marks may be slightly depressed and have a different texture than normal skin.

        Stria

        illustration

      Review Date: 4/16/2019

      Reviewed By: Michael Lehrer, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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