Lower Back Stretch Marks in Teenage Boys: What is the Cause?

Though many teens get stretch marks during adolescence, a certain subset of teenage boys end up with horizontal striae distensae (SD) of the lower back. These marks can be worrisome for parents because previous research has indicated that they may be a result of bacterial infection, a sign of metabolic disease, or associated with unmonitored steroid use.

A recent study sought to determine if there were any common characteristics amongst a set of boys aged 11 to 17 that were diagnosed with this condition. Using a telephone survey, researchers contacted eligible boys from a pediatric dermatology clinic for an interview that covered demographics and other family history relevant to the study. In addition, a full chart review was performed for each participant.

The results showed that none of the boys with horizontal SD of the lower back had a history of unmonitored injectable or oral anabolic steroid use. Likewise, none of the boys in this study presented with any metabolic condition or infection with B. henselae or B. burgdorferi. In this cohort, the stretch marks were associated with rapid growth spurts, tall stature, and a positive family history of SD. The authors conclude that striae are a normal physiological process in growing adolescent boys rather than a sign of underlying pathology, but suggest that a larger study is needed to confirm these findings.