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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

Stretch Marks Symptoms

Stretch marks do not generally produce any symptoms but have a characteristic visual appearance no matter when they appear or what the cause. They initially appear as raised pink to purple lines longitudinally arranged over the abdomen, lateral upper thighs, inner arms, or upper breasts. With time, the purplish-pink color lightens and they appear as silvery lines on the skin, similar to a scar. The purplish-pink scars are termed striae rubra, while the silvery lines are termed striae albae. Stretch marks can also occur in dark-complected people where they appear as dark-brown lines, which are termed striae nigrae. In short, stretch marks are scars that are permanent once formed.

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.

Beauty Problems Pictures Cellulite, Stretch Marks, and More in Pictures Slideshow

Beauty Problems Pictures Cellulite, Stretch Marks, and More in Pictures Slideshow

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REFERENCE:

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

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