Scoliosis is a painless bending and twisting of the spinal column. It is sometimes progressive, and may lead to distortion of the chest, the back and the hips. It can be idiopathic, developing without a specific reason, or can occur from degenerative disease. It can occur in the thoracic (middle) spine or the lumbar (lower) spine. The idiopathic type of scoliosis most commonly affects adolescent girls.
Causes of Scoliosis
Scoliosis is commonly idiopathic, that is without an identifiable cause. It can rarely be caused by spinal cord disorders, such as tumors or syringomyelia. Diseases that lead to muscular weakness can also produce scoliosis, such as polio and muscular dystrophy. Congenital defects of the spine and congenital leg length discrepancies can lead to deformities of the spine. degenerative processes, such as disc degeneration and osteoarthritis of the spine, can produce acquired scoliosis. Injuries to the spine or destruction of the spine by cancer or infection, can also lead to scoliosis.
Signs and Symptoms of Scoliosis
Early stages of idiopathic scoliosis may not produce any symptoms. However, simple screening tests may detect this abnormality. As the disease progresses, there is visible curving of the upper body, the spine becomes S-shaped or rotated. The shoulder become uneven and rounded. A sunken chest or a rib hump may develop. Swayback occurs as well as one side of the pelvis being thrust forward. The hips may be of uneven height. Back pain may sometimes occur. Scoliosis of the spine in children and adolescents who have significant pain and develop neurological symptoms, such as weakness, numbness or bladder problems, need to be further evaluated for the presence of spinal cord disorders. The development of back pain and scoliotic deformities centered in the low back, or lumbar spine, is more commonly the result of degenerative changes in the spine. Accordingly, it is seen most commonly in middle-aged and older individuals. Since this type of scoliosis may be associated with narrowing of the spinal canal, weakness or numbness or pain involving the legs may be present.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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