SAN FRANCISCO — Skin striae are at least twice as common in women with pelvic organ prolapse as in women without prolapse, a survey of 116 women found.
Hormonal status alone didn't explain the association. Women with prolapse were less likely to be postmenopausal than women without prolapse. The association may indicate a common defect in connective tissue for prolapse and striae (stretch marks), Dr. Sharon Salter wrote in a poster presentation at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology.
The surveys were completed by urogynecology patients and by a control group of women undergoing Mohs surgery for skin cancer in 2005. Just over half of the women with prolapse reported striae, compared with a quarter of women without prolapse. A majority of women with striae said the marks developed during pregnancy, reported Dr. Salter of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston.
Women were considered to have prolapse if they had a prior diagnosis of pelvic relaxation and prolapse or reported symptoms of pelvic pressure, urinary incontinence, or pelvic organ protrusion through the vagina.
Women with striae were significantly heavier (averaging 161 pounds vs. 144 pounds in the nonstriae group) and were more likely to have varicose veins.
Previous studies have noted decreased collagen and elastin content in women with prolapse. There are no reliable methods of predicting which women will develop pelvic organ prolapse.
Future studies might explore the possibility of stretch marks as a predictor of prolapse. If there is a definitive link, it may lead to a better understanding of the pathophysiology of both prolapse and striae, and potential treatments, Dr. Salter wrote.