Medically known as striae, stretch marks are a form of scarring which develops when the skin is stretched too far too quickly. This results in the breakdown of supporting structures, which causes a scar-like appearance.
The most common cause of stretch marks in both men and women is the rapid growth spurt that happens during puberty. A natural part of the teenage years, this growth usually occurs so rapidly that it stretches the skin beyond its limits causing dermal tearing where supporting structures like elastin and collagen have been lost.
Another cause of stretch marks that affects both men and women in equal measure is rapid weight gain and obesity. Both of these stretch the skin beyond its limits, resulting in stretch marks in areas like the abdomen, arms, thighs and buttocks.
Stretch marks are estimated to affect up to 90% of all pregnant women. During pregnancy, these marks are formed as a result of the uterus expanding, along with rapid weight gain during gestation. Marks that occur directly as a result of pregnancy are medically known as striae gravidarum. These are the scars that become visible on the abdomen after a few months. While they are a very common occurrence in pregnant women, some studies have shown that age, body mass and weight gain all play a part in the severity of pregnancy stretch marks.
It has been well documented that certain medications and medical conditions can also lead to the formation of stretch marks. Most commonly, corticosteroid creams are the medication responsible for stretch marks but long term use of oral or systemic steroids can cause them too.
Although these are a rarer cause of stretch marks than medications, certain medical conditions can also cause them. Diseases involving the adrenal gland, in particular, are known for causing stretch marks. These medical conditions include Cushing’s Syndrome, Marfan Syndrome, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
Like weight gain, rapid muscle gain can also cause stretch marks. Athletes and bodybuilders often have stretch marks for this exact reason. The skin doesn’t differentiate between fat or muscle gain, and both can cause it to stretch beyond its natural limits.
If you have stretch marks as the result of one of these common causes – as most people do – our skin experts will be happy to talk you through your treatment options. All you have to do is book a free consultation today to start your skin journey.