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Stretch Marks

Stretch Marks Overview

Stretch marks, medically known as striae distensae, are an extremely common finding in both men and women who are past puberty. They appear as linear, thinned skin most often found on the breasts, abdomen, hips, and thighs. Stretch marks may appear due to the rapid hormonal changes and growth associated with puberty, during pregnancy, or with medical diseases, such as Cushing syndrome. Under the microscope, they appear similar to scar tissue. No curative treatment has been developed; however, moisturizers, massage, microdermabrasion, and laser resurfacing may improve their appearance.

Stretch Marks Causes

Stretch marks may occur during various phases of life, may be related to increased cortisol (a hormone produced by the adrenal glands) secretion or be associated with increased body mass. The most common cause of stretch marks is pregnancy, and pregnancy-associated stretch marks are medically known as striae gravidarum. It is thought that the rapid growth of the baby may play a role in their development, but not all pregnancies produce stretch marks. A relationship between pregnancy, obesity, and increased stretch marks has been reported. In obesity, it is thought that the stretching of the skin with weight gain causes the scars, but stretch marks have also been observed in people who experience a rapid increase in muscle mass with weight lifting. Taking some medications, such as corticosteroids like prednisone, may also produce stretch marks.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/15/2014
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