Stretch marks appear in a variety of colors and shapes. Some may be pink or red and leave indentations in the skin. Others may be just purplish streaks. Whatever the appearance, stretch marks can be concerning. Especially when the cause is not known. Because stretch marks can signal a serious health condition, it is important to understand what situations cause them to occur.
According to the Mayo Clinic, several types of medications can cause stretch marks. Among them include corticosteroid lotions, pills and creams. In addition, chronic steroid usage can result in stretch marks. The National Health Service (NHS) website says corticosteroids decrease collagen amounts in the skin. The skin requires collagen to stretch--so the less collagen, the more likely for stretch marks to appear.
The NHS website explains that a medical condition called marfan syndrome can be responsible for stretch marks. Marfan syndrome is a genetic condition that affects the body's connective tissues. It weakens the skin's ability to stretch. As a result, stretch marks may appear on the waist, back and shoulders. Marfan syndrome can affect anyone—no matter the age or sex. In fact, the National Marfan Foundation states that one in 5,000 people are diagnosed with the condition.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases explains that a hormonal disorder called Cushing's syndrome can cause purple or pinkish stretch marks to develop on the stomach, legs, buttocks, breasts or arms. This disorder occurs when the body is exposed to high levels of the cortisol hormone. This may be a result of taking glucocorticoids that are found in asthma, arthritis or lupus medications. Or the body may just naturally produce too much cortisol. In addition, Cushing's syndrome is sometimes caused by noncancerous tumors.
As the NHS website explains, puberty can sometimes result in stretch marks. This is because a child's body grows in quick spurts that can stretch the skin. Boys often develop stretch marks on the back and shoulders, while girls tend to experience them on the thighs, hips and breasts. This occurs because the dermis, a layer of strong fibers that connect to each other and help skin stretch, tears when the skin stretches too quickly. The fibers in the dermis break, leaving small tears in which blood vessels show through.