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Scoliosis is one of the more common disorders of the spine. Most patients experience few problems, but for those with a progressive curvature, problems can be severe.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with scoliosis, we know you have many questions. Learn answers to the most common questions below. We’re here to help. If you have further questions, please call the Baylor Scoliosis Center at 972.985.2797.
Learn the answers to common questions about scoliosis:
What is scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a disorder of the spine in which the vertebrae rotate, creating a curve in the upper or lower back.
Patients can experience a mild case of scoliosis with little pain or disfigurement or a more severe case of scoliosis, where increased curvature, pain and disfigurement result. This can cause difficulties walking and even breathing.
What are the types of scoliosis? There are several different types of scoliosis. The most common types are:
Idiopathic Scoliosis means literally “of undetermined cause.”[i] This type of scoliosis is thought to be genetic, involving multiple genes and a concept called variable penetrance. This means in each generation there is variability in how strongly the genes are expressed, or how severe the curve is.
Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is the most common diagnosis in children, representing nearly 90 percent of cases.
Congenital Scoliosis involves spinal bones that did not form properly during fetal development.
Neuromuscular Scoliosis involves abnormalities in neuromuscular function. These include:
Adult Scoliosis is classified in the following ways:
How is it diagnosed?
The Baylor Scoliosis Center offers comprehensive diagnosis of each patient's specific curvature through a physical examination of the back and extensive testing, including specialized X-rays.
What causes scoliosis?
The causes for scoliosis are not entirely understood. In fact, according to the Scoliosis Research Society, a specific cause is not found in 8 of every 10 cases.[ii]
While many cases of scoliosis are thought to be genetic, there is no single cause that is widely agreed upon.
Several observations do exist:
Research is being conducted to identify specific genes associated with scoliosis. We hope to be better able to predict which curves are at highest risk for progression based on a patient’s specific genetic markers.
What are the symptoms of scoliosis?
Scoliosis can be a hidden disorder with no obvious signs of curvature or it can cause great disfigurement, pain and disability. Some patients have undetected scoliosis for years until the curve starts to increase, causing pain and difficulty.
Some symptoms include:
In more advanced cases, scoliosis patients have reported pain, limited movement, difficulty breathing, headaches and even sleepiness.
Is scoliosis worse in girls and women?
The natural history of the disease in women is different than in men. Overall, about the same number of men and women are diagnosed with scoliosis, but young women diagnosed as an adolescent or young adult face a progression rate of seven to eight times higher than boys.
Despite the fact that men and women have nearly the same incidence of scoliosis, women have progressive disease much more frequently.
In fact, young women diagnosed in adolescence or young adulthood with scoliosis face a progression rate of seven to eight times higher than boys. The reasons for this are not well understood.
Generally, women with scoliosis fall into one of these three categories:
What are my scoliosis treatment options?
If left untreated, scoliosis can lead to a disfiguring curve, pain and limited mobility. Generally, treatment for scoliosis has included observation, bracing and/or surgery.
What are other common spine conditions?
The bones of the spine are arranged to give the spinal column stability. Damage or defects within the supporting structures of the lumbar spine can often be the source of back pain. The Baylor Scoliosis Center treats other back health issues including:
For a referral to a scoliosis specialist on the Baylor Plano medical staff, click here.
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