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Striae distensae (stretch marks)

Jennifer L MacGregor, MD
Naissan O Wesley, MD
Section Editor
Jeffrey S Dover, MD, FRCPC
Deputy Editor
Abena O Ofori, MD


Striae distensae are a common form of dermal scarring that appear on the skin as erythematous, violaceous, or hypopigmented linear striations. Synonyms include the terms striae, stretch marks, and striae atrophicans. Striae gravidarum are striae distensae occurring secondary to pregnancy.

There are two main types of striae distensae, striae rubra and striae alba. Striae rubra are the earliest presentation of striae distensae and are characterized by an erythematous to violaceous color (picture 1A-C). Over time, striae rubra evolve into striae alba, which appear hypopigmented, atrophic, and scar-like (picture 2A-B). Common locations for striae distensae are the abdomen, breasts, medial upper arms, hips, lower back, buttocks, and thighs.

Although typically asymptomatic, striae distensae may be disfiguring and psychologically distressing to patients. Various topical and procedural modalities have been employed for the treatment of striae distensae. (See 'Treatment' below and 'Prevention' below.)

The clinical features, diagnosis, and management of striae distensae will be reviewed here.


Epidemiologic data on striae distensae in the general population are limited [1-11]. Reported incidences have ranged from as low as 11 percent in normal men to up to 88 percent in pregnant females [5,11]. Predisposing factors include pregnancy, adolescent age, drug exposure (eg, topical or systemic corticosteroids), underlying disease (eg, Cushing's syndrome), and surgery (eg, breast augmentation) [12,13]. A more extensive list of associated conditions is provided (table 1).

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Dec 29, 2015.
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