Symptoms and causes

Symptoms

Stretch marks don't all look alike. They vary depending on how long you've had them, what caused them, where they are on your body, and the type of skin you have. Common variations include:

  • Indented streaks or lines in the skin
  • Pink, red, black, blue or purple streaks
  • Bright streaks that fade to a lighter color
  • Streaks on the abdomen, breasts, hips, buttocks or thighs
  • Streaks covering large areas of the body

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you're concerned about the appearance of your skin or if the stretch marks cover large areas of your body. Your doctor can help determine the cause of the stretch marks and discuss treatment options.

Causes

Stretch marks seem to be caused by a stretching of the skin. Their severity is affected by several factors, including your genetic tendency, degree of stress on the skin and cortisone level. Cortisone — a hormone produced by the adrenal glands — weakens elastic fibers in the skin.

Risk factors

Anyone can develop stretch marks, but some factors increase your likelihood of getting them, including:

  • Being female
  • Having a personal or family history of stretch marks
  • Being pregnant, especially for younger women
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Rapidly gaining or losing weight
  • Using corticosteroid medication
  • Undergoing breast enlargement surgery
  • Having Cushing's syndrome, Marfan syndrome or certain other genetic disorders