Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
The medical name for stretch marks is striae distensae.
Stretch marks are very common.
Stretch marks rarely are a sign of a significant
Stretch marks are generally painless.
commonly develop in obesity and during pregnancy.
What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks appear as linear streaks on the skin
that has been overstretched, and they run perpendicular to maximum lines of tension
in the skin. They begin as flat red lines, and over time they appear as slightly
depressed white streaks. They tend to be present near the armpits, on the
thighs, abdomen, chest, and groin. Their appearance is similar to changes seen
in the surface of rubber balloons that have been overinflated.
What causes stretch marks?
There is some controversy over the precise
mechanism by which striae occur. There seems to be damage to the elastic fibers
of the dermis (the deeper layer of the skin) accompanied by inflammation which
eventually results in scar-like changes. These changes appear to be induced by
excessive physical stretching of the skin. There are a number of clinical
situations which will predispose the skin to the formation of striae. These
include rapid and excessive increase in body mass, the excessive use of topical
or systemic glucocorticoid drugs (steroids), Cushing's disease (overproduction
of glucocorticoids by the adrenal gland), puberty, Marfan's syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos
syndrome (two uncommon genetic diseases), excessively large breast implants, and
What are risk factors for stretch marks?
Excessive rapid weight gain and
pregnancy are the two most common risk factors. Other risk factors include the
conditions described above that predispose the skin to developing stretch marks.
Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD on 6/25/2013
After working out for two months, I've noticed that I have small stretch marks on my arms from lifting. How can I prevent them?
Stretch marks occur when the elastic middle layer of skin called the dermis is stretched. Stretching leads to a breakdown of connective tissue, inflammation, and then scar formation as the injury heals.