Stretch Marks


Stretch marks are red, whitish, or purple streaks in the skin.


Stretch marks occur when skin is stretched too much over time. The elastic fibers just below the skin tear. This tear leaves streaks of indented skin. The elastic fibers are also weakened by hormones present during pregnancy. These hormones may also be associated with rapid weight gain or certain medical conditions.

Pregnant Woman
BL00017 sm
Stretch marks are common in pregnancy.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Stretch marks are more common in women. Other factors that may increase your chance of stretch marks include:

  • Family history of stretch marks
  • Pregnancy, especially if the baby is large
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Rapidly gaining or losing weight
  • Rapid muscle gain
  • Using corticosteroid medications
  • Certain medical conditions, such as adrenal gland disorders


Stretch marks are red or purple streaks that are slightly indented. They eventually turn whitish in color. They are most common on the stomach, thighs, buttocks, and breasts, but may also occur in other areas. The stretched skin may also be dry or itchy.


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

If the cause of stretch marks is not obvious your doctor may look for other causes. These tests may include blood tests.


Most stretch marks fade over time without treatment. Some people may want faster results or deeper fading of stretch marks. In general, the current treatments are limited and do not work well.

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Factors that will affect your treatment options include:

  • Age of stretch marks
  • Convenience of treatment—may require multiple sessions
  • Cost—usually not covered by medical insurance
  • Your expectations

Treatment options include the following:


Tretinoin cream may help to lessen the appearance of stretch marks. It is most effective on stretch marks that are less than 6 weeks old and still red or pink in color.

It should not be used during pregnancy.

Laser Therapy

Laser therapy can stimulate the growth of collagen and elastin. It may decrease the appearance of stretch marks.


There are no proven methods for preventing stretch marks. Staying within recommended weight gain guidelines during pregnancy may help. If you are not pregnant, maintain a healthy weight.

Lotions have not been proven to prevent stretch marks. They may be helpful to moisturize and soothe itchiness.


Please note, not all procedures included in this resource library are available at Allegiance Health or performed by Allegiance Health physicians.

All EBSCO Publishing proprietary, consumer health and medical information found on this site is accredited by URAC. URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation Program requires compliance with 53 rigorous standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audits. To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Editorial Policy | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions | Support
Copyright © 2008 EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.

People who consistently help others experience less depression, greater calm and fewer pains.