Doctor's Notes on Stretch Marks
Stretch marks (striae distensae) appear as linear, thinned skin commonly 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 certain diseases, such as Cushing syndrome and they are permanent once they are formed. Under the microscope, they appear similar to scar tissue. There is no cure for stretch marks but moisturizers, massage, microdermabrasion, and laser resurfacing may improve their appearance.
Stretch marks don’t usually produce any symptoms but they have a characteristic visual appearance no matter when they appear or what the cause. Stretch marks may first appear as raised pink to purple lines longitudinally arranged over the abdomen, lateral upper thighs, inner arms, or upper breasts. Over time, the purplish-pink color lightens and they appear as silvery lines on the skin, similar to a scar. In darker-skinned people, stretch marks appear as dark-brown lines.
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Cushing SyndromeCushing's syndrome is a disorder caused by prolonged exposure to high levels of corticosteroids. Causes include prolonged use of steroid medications, adrenal tumors, pituitary tumors, and other tumors. Symptoms include weight gain, skin changes, muscle weakness, and psychological problems. Treatment involves surgery, radiation, or medication.
Do Stretch Marks Ever Really Go Away?Stretch marks never really go away, but they may fade over time and their appearance may be reduced with treatment. Stretch marks (striae) are a common form of skin scarring that appear on the skin as red, purple, or light-colored lines. Stretch marks are harmless but can be upsetting for patients who are unhappy with their appearance.
ObesityMore than two-thirds of Americans are overweight, including at least one in five children. Nearly one-third are obese. Obesity is on the rise in our society because food is abundant and physical activity is optional. The safest way to lose weight is to eat less and exercise more. Treatment may also include medications, surgery, and behavior modification.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.