Stretch marks in teens

The Pediatric Insider

© 2014 Roy Benaroch, MD

MJ sent me a photo of her teenage son’s back, and asked “Could these be stretch marks from growing so fast?”

Striae

That’s exactly what I think they are, MJ. I see shallow, linear, parallel marks that lie across the back, perpendicular to the long axis of growth. The doctor-word for this is “striae atrophicae”, or just striae or stria. Everyone else calls them stretch marks.

Women who’ve been pregnant know all about stretch marks, but other people get them too. Teenagers who are growing taller rapidly often get them, as can anyone who gains excessive weight (especially if the weight comes on quickly.) We most commonly see normal striae on the shoulders, abdomen, hips, buttocks, thighs, and breasts.  In time, these striae in teenagers gradually fade, and lose their reddish or purplish color.

There are some other health conditions that can cause a lot of striae, often appearing in unexpected places where there isn’t much stretching of the skin. People with Marfan Syndrome sometimes have quite a bit of stretch marks (they’re also usually tall and lean and gangly, with long arms and flexible joints.) Using oral or high potency topical steroids can predispose to striae, as can Cushing Syndrome (excessive adrenal steroids—very rare in kids, but when you see it they’ve got a round face and stop growing taller.) Children who’ve undergone chemotherapy or who’ve experienced other major illnesses sometimes develop striae. Most striae, though, are just a normal part of growing up.

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One Comment on “Stretch marks in teens”

  1. hopefulanonymous Says:

    This comment is for the parents of a child who has developed striae atrophicae… This type of striae as defined in the article was first reported in 1935 with more interest given to the condition in the 1960’s. It is suggested that weight lifting at a young age, hormone levels, and genetics play a role in their development. Here is a pediatric case report that informs us of striae atrophicae being mistaken as child abuse (just good to know): http://www.hindawi.com/journals/crips/2013/386094/ In the nine years that I have been researching stretchmarks, and it’s important to note that I am not a doctor, only a mother searching for solutions, I feel it’s necessary to remark on the relevance of diet. Too often are teens and pre-teens exposed to junk foods and beverages that compromise their health in ways not yet completely understood by the medical community. I am reminded of a specific example of western diet disturbing the zinc-copper ratio which from my own research suggests may cause stretchmarks. I have spoken to many teens who have stretchmarks and they reveal to me how it socially and emotionally affects them. This saddens me. I hope to see more attention paid to the prevention of adolescent striae as it may psychologically damaging. For now, I’m writing a blog dedicated to the topic, making it a priority in my life to help all who are affected by stretchmarks.

    EDIT from mod, 10/4/2014 7:30 pm: The comment author emailed me with a corrected link: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/cripe/2013/386094/

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