Stretch marks seem to be caused, literally, by a stretching of the skin. Stretch marks are more extreme when coupled with an increase in cortisone, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisone weakens elastic fibers in the skin.
Stretch marks develop in a variety of circumstances, including:
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- Pregnancy. Most pregnant women develop stretch marks by the end of their pregnancy. The physical stretching of the skin, along with hormonal factors, likely plays a role.
- Weight gain. Stretch marks sometimes occur during substantial weight gain. Weightlifters can develop stretch marks, particularly on the arms. Adolescents may notice stretch marks during growth spurts.
- Medication use. Corticosteroid creams, lotions and pills and chronic use of oral or systemic steroids can cause stretch marks.
- Conditions or diseases. Cushing's syndrome and adrenal gland diseases can cause widespread stretch marks, as can Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and other hereditary (genetic) disorders.
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