Definition

What are stretch marks?

Stretch marks are long, narrow streaks, stripes, or lines that develop on the skin. They occur when the skin is suddenly stretched.

How common are stretch marks?

Stretch marks are extremely common. Anyone can develop stretch marks, although they tend to affect more women than men. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of stretch marks?

Stretch marks don’t all look alike. They vary depending on how long you’ve had them, what caused them, where they are on your body, and the type of skin you have. Common variations include:

  • Indented streaks or lines in the skin
  • Pink, red, black, blue or purple streaks
  • Bright streaks that fade to a lighter color
  • Streaks on the abdomen, breasts, hips, buttocks or thighs
  • Streaks covering large areas of the body

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes stretch marks?

Stretch marks seem to be caused by a stretching of the skin. Their severity is affected by several factors, including your genetic tendency, degree of stress on the skin and cortisone level. Cortisone — a hormone produced by the adrenal glands — weakens elastic fibers in the skin.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for stretch marks?

There are many risk factors for stretch marks, such as:

  • Being female
  • Having a personal or family history of stretch marks
  • Being pregnant, especially for younger women
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Rapidly gaining or losing weight
  • Using corticosteroid medication
  • Undergoing breast enlargement surgery
  • Having Cushing’s syndrome, Marfan syndrome or certain other genetic disorders

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How are stretch marks diagnosed?

Your doctor can tell if you have stretch marks by simply looking at your skin and reviewing your medical history. If they suspect your stretch marks may be due to a serious illness, they may order blood, urine, or imaging tests.

How are stretch marks treated?

Stretch marks often fade with time. If you don’t want to wait, there are treatments that can improve their appearance. However, no treatment can make stretch marks disappear completely.

There are several ways to improve the appearance of stretch marks:

  • Tretinoin cream (Retin-A, Renova) works by restoring collagen, a fibrous protein that helps give your skin elasticity. It’s best to use this cream on recent stretch marks that are red or pink. This cream may cause skin irritation. If you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t use tretinoin cream.
  • Pulsed dye laser therapy encourages the growth of collagen and elastin. It’s best to use this therapy on newer stretch marks. Darker-skinned individuals may experience skin discoloration.
  • Fractional photothermolysis is similar to pulsed dye laser therapy in that it uses a laser. However, it works by targeting smaller areas of your skin, causing less skin damage.
  • Microdermabrasion involves polishing the skin with tiny crystals to reveal new skin that’s under the more elastic stretch marks. Microdermabrasion can improve the appearance of older stretch marks.
  • The excimer laser stimulates skin color (melanin) production so that stretch marks match the surrounding skin more closely.

Medical procedures and prescription medicines aren’t guaranteed to cure stretch marks, and they can be expensive.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage stretch marks?

Many creams, ointments and other products claim to prevent or treat stretch marks. Products made of cocoa butter, vitamin E and glycolic acid, for example, aren’t harmful, but they probably won’t help much either.

Stretch marks usually fade and become less noticeable over time and don’t require any specific self-care or home therapy.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: December 13, 2017 | Last Modified: December 13, 2017

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