Stretch Marks

Stretch marks (striae) are relatively frequent findings on the skin. Usually, they represent only cosmetic problem but they may even be symptoms of much more serious disease.

Causes and symptoms

Stretch marks are tears in the skin that occur more commonly in women. They are caused by damage of elastic fibers in the affected skin.  Initially, they look like purplish stripes on the skin of the thighs, arms, abdomen and buttocks. As the stretch marks get older, their color changes to grey and white making them less visible.


The principle of stretch marks is mechanical overload of the skin. The increased load may be caused by obesity and by pregnancy. Similar problem may occur in men who began to work out intensively. Rapidly increased muscle mass can tear skin cover and cause the formation of stretch marks.


Naturally, there are factors that make the skin more susceptible to damage even by normal load. These factors include the lack of vitamin C, Cushing’s syndrome and regular usage of corticosteroids. The corticosteroids are immunosuppressants with very negative effects on the skin. Increased incidence of skin tears is also associated with rare congenital disorders of the connective tissue such as the Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.


The stretch marks are visible by the naked eye. The diagnosis is not a problem, especially when the affected person is obese, pregnant, or uses corticosteroids.


Weight loss with prevention of obesity is advisable. Using corticosteroids orally or in ointments is generally not-recommended unless prescribed by a doctor. Regular physical exercise and massage help to prevent the stretch marks as well.


If there is an underlying pathological condition of the condition, it is necessary to treat it, if possible. The already existing stretch marks can not be cured. However, they slightly fade as the time passes by. The visibility of the marks can be further decreased by a laser therapy.


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources