Stretch marks are a common concern, especially for women, for aesthetic reasons. Stretch marks, also called striae, are red, pink or purple depressed streaks on the skin. Anyone can get stretch marks, but they are most common in pregnant women in the later stages of pregnancy. The belly is growing to accommodate the baby, and the elastic tissue just beneath the top layer of skin breaks causing these streaks to appear.
Another cause of stretch marks is rapid weight gain. Weightlifters get stretch marks on their arms when rapidly growing muscle tissue expands. An increase in cortisone, a hormone produced by adrenal glands, weakens the elasticity of the skin. Similarly, coritcosteroid medications promote thinning of the skin, thus causing stretch marks.
Where Can Stretch Marks Appear?
Stretch marks can appear anywhere on the body, and are most common on buttocks, hips, thighs, arms, belly and breasts. Adolescents can get stretch marks during a growth spurt. In certain disorders, such as Cushing's syndrome, stretch marks can be present on other parts of the body.
How Can Stretch Marks Be Treated?
The initial bright color of stretch marks fade with time, but they never completely go away. There are some treatments which may improve their appearance. Topical medications and laser therapy are most effective on the newer marks and help the older marks to become less noticeable.