Risk factors for stretch marks

Risk factors for stretch marks

Risk factors for stretch marks

Of the general population, these groupings have the highest frequency risk: (2)

  • Pregnant women: The frequency of stretch marks that occur as a result of pregnancy is estimated at between 43% and 88% (thus stretch marks are more common in women than men).
  • Adolescents: It is estimated that between 6% and 86% of teenagers experiencing growth spurts may develop stretch marks as a result. Of these, 35% to 40% of boys and up to 70% of girls may be affected. The average age for growth spurts among girls and boys is around 16 years. (3)
  • Those suffering from obesity: At least 43% of obese individuals develop stretch mark formations.

Some factors which may predispose a person to stretch marks:

1. General population factors
  • Genetics / a family history (decreased collagen and fibronectin genes are associated with the formation of stretch marks, but this is still largely unexplored in terms of research)
  • A personal history of stretch marks affecting the breast or thigh areas
  • Sudden weight gain / obesity or dramatic weight loss
  • Teenage growth spurts
  • Muscular gains through bodybuilding (exercise-induced muscle hypertrophy)
2. Medical conditions and medication use
  • Cushing’s syndrome (which leads to the production of excess cortisol and weight gain)
  • Marfan syndrome (connective tissue abnormalities which influence growth and development)
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (a condition characterised by stretchy skin prone to bruising)
  • Anorexia nervosa (an eating disorder whereby a person can experience dramatic weight loss, become dangerously underweight)
  • Chronic liver disease (the development of ascites / diluted superficial veins which result in an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen causing striae formations)
  • Systemic and topical corticosteroid medications (endogenous or exogenous) used in the treatment of eczema or psoriasis (chronic) – cortisone, hydrocortisone, prednisolone, triamcinolone and methylprednisolone.
  • Chemotherapy (the use of topical steroids to treat skin reactions and weight fluctuations as a side-effect of treatment may both lead to stretch marks)
  • Contraceptive pills (hormonal influences)
  • Neuroleptic treatment (antipsychotic medications have been linked to drug-induced endocrine changes in the body and weight gain – although this is still being researched)
3. Surgical procedures
  • Breast augmentation and surgical procedures involving tissue expanders (often used in breast reconstruction procedures)
  • Organ transplantation procedures
  • Cardiac surgical procedures
4. Pregnancy
  • A family history (inherent susceptibility) of developing stretch marks during pregnancy
  • Being pregnant during the teenage years or in one’s early 20s - (It is believed that younger skin may experience fragility in fibrillin (the glycoprotein involved in the formation of elastic fibres in connective tissues)
  • Excessive weight gain during pregnancy
  • Multiple gestation pregnancies
  • A woman’s pre-pregnancy BMI (body mass index) – A high pre-pregnancy BMI increases the risk of developing stretch marks
  • The presence of pre-pregnancy stretch marks affecting the breast/s
  • Carrying a baby with a higher birth weight or one that is determined as being large for their gestational age
  • Polyhydramnios (a condition wherein a pregnant woman has excess amniotic fluid in the amniotic sac)


2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 28 May 2017. Stretch Marks (Striae): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK436005/ [Accessed 26.02.2018]

3. Springer Link. 2006. Striae Distensae (StriaeAtrophicans, Striae Gravidarum, Stretch Marks): https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1385/1-59259-906-0%3A223  [Accessed 26.02.2018]

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