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Stretch marks what is it?

Stretch marks are areas of skin where the deep dermis, located between the epidermis and the hypodermis, tears spontaneously. When they appear, they have the form of streaks resembling long, purplish-red scars, and are inflammatory. They fade over time to become white and pearly, almost the same color as the skin. Stretch marks are mainly on the stomach, breasts, arms, buttocks, and thighs. Very common, they can appear during pregnancy, when taking or a significant and sudden loss of weight as well as during adolescence.

There are two kinds of stretch marks:

  • Stretch marks revealing a health problem

The Cushing’s syndrome, due to an excess of corticosteroids in the body, is at the origin of important stretch marks. They are typically broad, red, and vertical and are located on the abdomen, on the root of the thighs and arms, and on the breasts. Other signs may be associated such as very thin skin, very fragile and prone to blues, as well as melting and muscle weakness or weight gain in the belly and face … These signs should alert and lead to consultation quick. Cushing’s syndrome is due to an excess of hormones such as cortisol, the stress hormone normally produced in an amount adapted by the adrenal glands. This Cushing’s syndrome is most often linked to an abuse of corticosteroid drugs.

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  • Classic stretch marks

These stretch marks are thinner and more discreet and are not accompanied by any particular health problem. Although they have no impact on health, they are often considered unsightly and cause significant discomfort. No treatment can make them disappear completely.

Stretch marks are also, at least partly, a hormonal origin, they can appear at the time of puberty or pregnancy, moments of intense hormonal changes.
During pregnancy, as early as the second trimester, the amount of cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, increases and varies the suppleness and elasticity of the skin. The higher the level of cortisol, the lower the collagen production is important. Collagen is responsible, with the elastic fibers, for the suppleness of the skin, the latter becomes less elastic. Therefore if the skin is stretched (weight gain, pregnancy, puberty), stretch marks can form.

Sudden and heavyweight gain or loss can also be responsible for the appearance of stretch marks. Weight gain may have relaxed the skin while weight loss may have stretched.

Top athletes are quite often subject to stretch marks because their cortisol levels are high.


Stretch marks are very common: nearly 80% of women have this type of small scars on certain areas of their body.
During the first pregnancy, 50 to 70% of women notice the appearance of stretch marks, often in late pregnancy.
At the time of puberty, 25% of girls versus only 10% of boys observe the formation of stretch marks.

Diagnostic of Stretch marks 

The diagnosis simply passes by the observation of the skin. When stretch marks are severe and associated with other symptoms, the doctor will assess for Cushing’s syndrome.

Causes of Stretch marks 

  • The appearance of stretch marks would be of hormonal origin. More specifically, it is linked to an excessive production of cortisol.
  • A stretch of the skin associated with a larger production of cortisol. Rapid weight gain, puberty where body morphology changes rapidly or pregnancy can combine hormonal factors and stretch of the skin.
  • The application of creams containing corticosteroids or prolonged use of oral corticosteroids.
  • Taking anabolic steroids among sportsmen in order to increase muscle mass, especially bodybuilders.
  • A very fine skin.

Stretch mark signs

  • Streaks on the skin, dark red or purplish.
  • Streaks on the skin, pale pink or pearly white · the color of the stretch marks depends on the color of the skin. On dark skin, they can be black.
  • Stretch marks are mainly on the stomach, breasts, buttocks, thighs and at the level of the arms.

People at risk

There is a genetic predisposition to the formation of stretch marks. Having a mother who has stretch marks increases the risk of having her in turn.

Women would be more concerned than men, even though men may also have them.


Risk factors

The main risk factors for stretch marks are:

  • Pregnancy: The risk factors for stretch marks during pregnancy are the age of the parturient less than 20 years, “obesity, having a big baby, multiple pregnancies and extreme prototypes, very clear(I) or dark (IV);
  • being overweight or obese;
  • lose or gain weight quickly;
  • Take corticosteroids, orally or by the skin.

Prevention of vergertures

Stretch mark prevention involves reducing risk factors. Thus, to limit the risk, it is better not to be overweight, not to diet too restrictive or not to take too much weight.

Women can be vigilant and regularly hydrate their skin, especially during periods that are conducive to the appearance of stretch marks often characterized by hormonal changes (adolescence, pregnancy, and menopause). A daily massage, however, would have moderate preventive effects.

During a pregnancy, a period also conducive to stretch marks, it is recommended to monitor its weight to grow reasonably and moisturize daily risk areas such as hips, thighs, breasts and of course the belly, including the skin is subjected to a strong stretch.
However, the effectiveness of these preventive actions is not proven and they cannot avoid all stretch marks.

Medical treatments for stretch marks

No treatment can completely eliminate stretch marks.
When dealing with pathological stretch marks due to a drug or Cushing’s disease, treatment of the cause is imperative to avoid aggravation.
When it comes to ordinary stretch marks, they do not require any medical treatment since they are safe for health. However, they can pose aesthetic problems.

Existing treatments can relatively reduce the appearance of stretch marks.

There are anti-stretch mark creams and lotions but their effects are not proven. However, they allow the skin to be well hydrated.

There are also techniques of peeling or microdermabrasion that could stimulate the elasticity of the skin.

Finally, the laser could make stretch marks less visible, by stimulating the activity of fibroblasts, cells that ensure the flexibility of the dermis. However, this technique does not make them disappear.

Cosmetic surgery can tighten areas affected by multiple stretch marks, especially at the belly. But it also does not allow removing stretch marks.

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Updated: December 5, 2018 — 11:07 am
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