Striae (stretch marks) often follow weight gain or pregnancy. This image displays striae (stretch marks). The thinned skin in striae has a wrinkled, crepe-paper-like appearance. This image displays bright red striae (stretch marks) in parallel lines, as is typical in early instances. This image displays pink striae (stretch marks) on a back. This image displays striae (stretch marks), which are common in pregnant women. This image displays striae (stretch marks) that were a side effect of treatment for psoriasis. This image displays extensive striae (stretch marks) on the leg. This image displays striae in the groin area of a rapidly growing young man.
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Stretch Marks (Striae)  Information for adults

Picture of Stretch Marks (Striae): Striae (stretch marks) often follow weight gain or pregnancy. Divider line
Striae (stretch marks) often follow weight gain or pregnancy.
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Overview
Stretch marks (striae) are stripe-like skin marks that develop as a result of rapid weight gain or loss, when the skin is stretched, and as a result of some diseases.
Who's At Risk
In the US, almost all pregnant women, 70% of teenaged (adolescent) women, and 40% of adolescent men have stretch marks. These are due to growth and stretching of the skin. They are more common in women and occur equally in all races.

Stretch marks are also seen in people who use oral or topical corticosteroids, have a disease of the adrenal gland, or have rare hereditary (genetic) disorders.
Signs and Symptoms
Stretch marks are usually seen on the belly and breasts during pregnancy; the thighs and lower back of adolescent men; and the thighs, buttocks, and breasts of adolescent women. They are common on the shoulders of bodybuilders. Lesions may be widespread or occur in other locations in people who are using corticosteroids or have an underlying disease.

Stretch marks change in appearance with time. At first, they are faint pink, appearing in a line (linear), or they are parallel band-like marks, which might be slightly itchy. They gradually enlarge and become red to purple, often with a wrinkled surface. Finally, they become white, slightly flatter (depressed), with a crepe paper appearance of linear marks 1-10 mm wide and many centimeters long.
Self-Care Guidelines
  • Stretch marks appearing in adolescence often improve with time. No treatment is needed.
  • Stop using topical corticosteroid creams in that skin area. Over-the-counter creams are useless.
When to Seek Medical Care
See your doctor if stretch marks appear without an obvious cause (pregnancy, rapid weight gain, adolescent growth).
Treatments Your Physician May Prescribe
If the stretch marks are cosmetically distressing, early red areas can be medically treated, but treatments are not be covered by insurance. Treatments include:
  • Tretinoin cream
  • Laser treatments
  • Chemical peels
If the diagnosis is uncertain, a biopsy and blood tests might be done.



References

Bolognia, Jean L., ed. Dermatology, pp.1542-1543. New York: Mosby, 2003.

Freedberg, Irwin M., ed. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 6th ed. pp.1028. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.
Last Updated: 22 Dec 2008