Striae (Stretch Marks): Definition & Treatment

Instructor: Marisela Duque

Marisela teaches nursing courses at the college level. She also works as a unit educator, teaching experienced nurses about changes in nursing practice.

When you finish this lesson you will be able to define striae and describe all the available treatment options. A short quiz follows this lesson to help you test your knowledge.

Love Your Striae!

Stretch marks (or striae) are a perfectly natural part of the human body, especially as we age. You might not think so when looking at magazine covers and television commercials -- those mediums airbrush their models to hide any type of imperfection. Looking at them might make you think stretch marks are freakishly abnormal -- but they're not!

We all have some stretch marks, especially the mommies out there. They show that we have been in our skin for some time, and some think we should celebrate them, as they show we've lived. As spoken word artist Andrea Gibson said, 'in the end I want my heart covered in stretch marks.'

Defining Striae

Striae is the medical term for stretch marks. These are irregular areas of skin that look a lot like bands or streaks. They usually occur when a person grows rapidly and/or loses or gains weight rapidly. Some diseases or medications can also cause striae.

The most common sites that striae appear are on the breasts, thighs, buttocks, hips, flank and abdomen. At first these lines appear red or pink and glossy but overtime they become white and look like an old scar. Sometimes the stretch mark has a different texture than the rest of your skin.


What Causes Striae?

Striae are caused by a stretching of the skin. They are most common during the adolescent growth spurt and the last few months of pregnancy because skin has to 'stretch' a lot during these times. Rapid weight gain or loss, corticosteroid medications and long term use of steroids can also cause striae. Some medical conditions that may cause widespread striae include: Cushing's syndrome, Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

Treatment Options

Although many people may be concerned with how their stretch marks look, the marks themselves are harmless and usually fade over time. Therefore they do not require any treatment and no treatment exists that will remove them completely. But, there are some treatments that can help to make them less noticeable:

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