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Symptoms and Signs of Stretch Marks

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.

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.