What causes stretch marks?


Quick Answer

Stretch marks are created when skin stretches rapidly, typically following a period of quick growth or after significant weight gain. Stretch marks are generally produced from benign conditions and provide more of an aesthetic concern than a physical problem. However, in addition to weight gain and growth, stretch marks may appear from pregnancy or may be caused by certain medications and diseases.

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Full Answer

Regardless of cause, stretch marks result from the overproduction of a hormone called cortisone that is produced by the adrenal glands. Excess volumes of cortisone in the body present on the surface of the skin as stretch marks, which are formed as cortisone wears away the elastic fibers just below the superficial layer of the skin. Stretch marks are found in women, adolescents and men.

In women, pregnancy is a common cause of stretch marks, and most women develop stretch marks, in varying degrees of severity, throughout the course of their pregnancies. During pregnancy, the skin stretches to accommodate the growing fetus. This excessive stretching along with a high production rate of hormones leads to the formation of unsightly stretch marks. Similarly, the combination of stretching skin and production of hormones during weight gain results in stretch marks, as does the presence of some diseases such as Cushing’s syndrome and Marfan syndrome, according to MayoClinic.

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