Stretch marks in teens
© 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?”
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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