Stretch marks or striae, as they
are called in
dermatology, are a form
scarring on the
with a silvery white hue. They
are caused by tearing of the
dermis, and over time can
diminish but not disappear
completely. Stretch marks are
generally associated with
obesity, and can develop
during rapid muscle growth from
building. Stretch marks
are the result of the rapid
stretching of the skin
associated with rapid growth
(e.g. puberty) or weight gain
(e.g. pregnancy), and anabolic
steroid use. Although the skin
is fairly elastic, rapid
stretching of the skin will
leave permanent stretch marks.
(Source: WD Writers). Stretch
marks (also referred to as
Medical terminology for
these kinds of markings include
striae atrophicae, vergetures,
striae cutis distensae, striae
gravidarum (in cases where it is
caused by pregnancy), lineae
atrophicae, striae distensae,
linea albicante, or simply
Symptoms and signs
They first appear as reddish or purple lines, but
tend to gradually fade to a lighter color. The
affected areas appear empty and soft to the touch.
Human skin has
three different layers: the
layer), the dermis
(middle layer), and the
subcutaneous stratum (innermost layer).
Stretch marks occur in the dermis, the resilient
middle layer that helps the skin retain its shape.
No stretch marks will form as long as there is
support within the dermis. Stretching plays more of
a role in where the marks occur and in what
direction they run. Stretching alone is not the
Stretch marks can appear anywhere on the body. They
are most likely to appear in places where larger
amounts of fat is
stored. Most common places are the
near the belly-button),
thighs (both inner
and outer), hips,
and buttocks. They
pose no health risk in and of themselves, and do not
compromise the body's ability to function normally
and repair itself.
Stretch marks occur when the skin is stretched
suddenly. The outer layer of skin is not affected, but
the dermis becomes thinner and develops tiny tears.
The blood vessels that lie under the skin show
through, giving the marks a reddish colour. Later,
when the blood vessels contract, the purplish colour
fades to silvery white.
Stretch marks appear most often in the following
Between 75 and 90% of women develop stretch marks
during pregnancy. As you put on weight, the abdomen
(stomach) is gradually stretched further and
further, usually causing stretch marks to appear in
the sixth or seventh month. Stretch marks can also
appear on the thighs, and on the breasts as they get
bigger and heavier.
Adolescent growth spurt:
Boys and girls tend to grow very quickly during
puberty. Boys often get stretch marks on the
shoulders, and girls get them on the hips, thighs,
Athletes who train their muscles to get bigger and
stronger over a short period of time sometimes get
stretch marks. This is particularly common in
Weight loss or gain:
Putting on a lot of weight over a short period of
time can cause stretch marks to form. If you are
constantly on and off diets, stretch marks can also
form, as your weight goes up and down rapidly. If
you are dieting, it is important to lose weight
slowly so that strain isnt put on the skin.
However, not everyone gets stretch marks. Doctors
think some people get stretch marks because their
bodies produce more of the hormone, corticosteroid,
than normal. This hormone decreases the amount of
collagen in the skin. Collagen is a type of protein
in the fibres of the skin that keeps it stretchy.
Occasionally, stretch marks can be a symptom of
Cushings syndrome, a condition caused by too many
steroid hormones. For more information, please see
the separate encyclopaedia entry on Cushings
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