Risk factors for stretch marks

Risk factors for stretch marks

What puts me at risk of developing stretch marks?

Of the general population, these groupings have the highest risk of developing stretch marks: (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 those suffering from obesity develop stretch mark formations.

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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