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Striae, also commonly called stretch marks, are unsightly bands in the skin normally caused by rapid growth or expansion. People are prone to striae when they gain weight rapidly or go through growth spurts as a teenager. Though there are a number of creams sold commercially that promise to get rid of stretch marks, there has been little evidence verifying their effectiveness.
Striae are most often seen in obese individuals who have gained weight at a rapid pace. These stretch marks often begin as purple bands in the areas where the skin has been forced beyond its natural elasticity. For women, these areas are usually located in the buttocks and thighs. For men, stretch marks are more often seen around the waist, where men typically put on excess fat.
Obesity is not the only cause of striae, however. Pregnancy can carry with it an almost inevitable rash of striae around the abdomen. There is little that can be done to prevent this from happening. Pregnant women looking to reduce the number of stretch marks from pregnancy may keep their skin well moisturized and avoid gaining excess weight beyond what is healthy for the baby.
Striae can also occur as a result of certain metabolic disorders, such as Cushing's syndrome. Cushing's syndrome is typically found in individuals who are exposed to a high dose of cortisol. Cortisone skin creams can also cause striae to appear. Sufferers often see marks on the knees and legs as a result of the disorder.
Stretch marks are perfectly normal if found as a result of obesity, puberty, or other known causes. However, if there is no obvious cause, a dermatologist should be consulted to get a definitive diagnosis. A dermatologist can make sure that what the person is seeing is actually striae and not something more serious, such as an infectious rash. The doctor can also work to discover what might be causing the stretch marks.
Though there are numerous products on the market that promise to get rid of or reduce stretch marks, no creams or ointments have been shown to make much of a difference. Stretch marks typically fade and lose their color over time. While they won't generally disappear, they may gradually become pale enough so as not to be particularly noticeable. Like scars, stretch marks don't normally tan with the rest of the skin, so staying out of the sun may be a good way to keep stretch marks from standing out.