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Stretch marks or striae are purple, pink or red indented streaks appearing on the breasts, abdomen, upper arms, thighs and buttocks. Overtime, they do fade into gray or white. They are particularly common in individuals who are pregnant or overweight as they occur when the skin is stretched further than it is meant to. There are treatment options for stretch marks that allow them to fade or appear less visible, but they cannot be completely removed or cured.

Causes, Risk Factors and Complications of Stretch Marks

As the name would suggest, stretch marks occur when the skin stretches. They occur in the most extreme manner when the stretching is met with cortisone increases, a hormone the adrenal glands produce. This is because cortisone weakens the skins elastic fibers, allowing more damage to occur. There are several different circumstances that can lead to stretch marks including some conditions and diseases, certain medications, weight gain and pregnancy. Corticosteroid medications, oral steroids and systemic steroids can increase the likelihood of stretch mark development. Adrenal gland diseases, Cushings syndrome, Marfan syndrome, hereditary disorders and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome all too may cause or exacerbate stretch marks.

Stretch marks are not physically harmful, but their development can cause complications. Some complications of stretch marks include: lowering of self-esteem, sexual issues, discomfort with ones body and even stress or depression. It is also essential to consider that because some illnesses and medications can cause stretch marks, the surprise appearance of stretch marks should be addressed in order to rule out other causes. Unless there is an apparent cause for stretch mark development such as pregnancy or weight gain, it is worthwhile to consult a physician for guidance.

Signs, Symptoms and Testsof Stretch Marks

Stretch marks do not all appear alike because several factors contribute to their appearance including where on the body they are, what caused them to occur and how long they have been present. Common stretch mark variations include: indented lines or streaks, multiple streaks in red, pink or purple or bright streaks that fade into gray or white or a light pink. Stretch marks are especially common on the breasts, abdomen, buttocks, upper arms and thighs though they can also cover large areas of the entire body. Stretch marks that cover very large areas of the body or that are causing a concerning appearance to the skin, should be checked out by a physician.

A stretch mark diagnosis can be made easily based on an examination of the skin as well as a review of pertinent medical history. A physician will ask questions about medications, signs and symptoms and if there are any known medical conditions as well. Additional testing may be necessary in situations where an increased level of cortisol production might be to blame.

Treatment, Drugs and Preventionof Stretch Marks

Stretch marks provide more of a cosmetic concern than a medical risk. However, there are treatments for people that want to help them fade more quickly. These include: microdermabrasion, laser therapy and tretinoin cream. Stretch marks do fade over time, but these treatment options may help them to fade more quickly than what time can achieve. Work closely with a physician to explore different treatment options as well as to treat any underlying causes behind the stretch mark production in order to prevent them from becoming worse.