Stretch marks (striae) are indented streaks that often appear on the abdomen, breasts, hips, buttocks, and thighs. Over time they become less noticeable. Stretch marks are particularly common in pregnant women, especially during the last trimester. Treatment can make stretch marks fade, but it won't completely remove them.
Stretch marks aren't painful or harmful, but some people feel distressed about the way they make their skin look.
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:
See your doctor if you're concerned about the appearance of your skin or if the stretch marks cover large areas of your body. Your doctor can help determine the cause of the stretch marks and discuss treatment options.
Stretch marks seem to be caused by a stretching of the skin. Their severity is affected by several factors, including your genetic tendency, the degree of stress on the skin and cortisone level. Cortisone — a hormone produced by the adrenal glands — weakens elastic fibers in the skin.
Anyone can develop stretch marks, but some factors increase your likelihood of getting them, including:
The best way to reduce the likelihood of getting stretch marks is to maintain a healthy weight. During pregnancy, you'll gain weight over a relatively brief period. Work with your doctor to avoid gaining too much by eating well and exercising. This not only minimizes stretch marks but also is healthy for you and your baby.
Stretch marks are typically diagnosed based on an examination of your skin and a review of your medical history. If your doctor suspects an increase in your cortisol production, he or she may recommend additional tests.
You may not like how stretch marks make your skin look, but they don't require medical treatment. They are harmless and often fade over time. If you do seek treatment for stretch marks, know that treatments are only partially effective and won't remove them completely.
The following treatments are among those available to help improve the appearance and texture of stretch marks. None has been proved to be more consistently successful than the others.
Work with your doctor to choose the most appropriate treatment or combination of treatments for you. Factors to consider include: