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Striae

Definition

Striae are irregular areas of skin that look like bands, stripes, or lines. Striae are seen when a person grows or gains weight rapidly or has certain diseases or conditions.

Striae are commonly called stretch marks.

Alternative Names

Striae atrophica; Stretch marks; Striae distensae

Considerations

Stretch marks can appear when there is rapid stretching of the skin. They are often associated with the abdominal enlargement of pregnancy. They can be found in children who have become rapidly obese. They may also occur during the rapid growth of puberty in males and females. Striae are most commonly located on the breasts, hips, thighs, buttocks, abdomen, and flank.

Stretch marks appear as parallel streaks of red, thinned, glossy skin that over time become whitish and scar-like in appearance. The stretch marks may be slightly depressed and have a different texture than normal skin.

Striae may also occur as a result of abnormal collagen formation, or a result of medications or chemicals that interfere with collagen formation. They may also be associated with longtime use of cortisone compounds, diabetes, Cushing disease, and post-pregnancy.

Causes

Home Care

There is no specific care for stretch marks. Marks often will disappear after the cause of the skin stretching is gone.

Avoiding rapid weight gain helps reduce stretch marks caused by obesity.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If striae or stretch marks appear without obvious cause such as pregnancy or rapid weight gain, call your health care provider.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

You health care provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms, including:

  • Is this the first time that you have developed striae?
  • When did you first notice the stretchmarks?
  • What medicines have you taken?
  • Have you used a cortisone skin cream?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

If the striae are not caused by normal physical changes, tests may be done. Topical retinoids can be prescribed and may help the appearance of striae. Laser treatment may also help.

References

Maari C, Powell J. Atrophies of connective tissue. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 99.


Review Date: 4/14/2013
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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