Scoliosis is an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty. It does not usually cause noticeable symptoms in children other than affecting the appearance of the back. While scoliosis can be caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, the cause of most scoliosis is still unknown.
Most cases of scoliosis are mild, but some children develop spine deformities that continue to get more severe as they grow. The severe condition of scoliosis can be disabling, since an especially severe spinal curve can reduce the amount of space within the chest, making it difficult for the lungs to function properly.
Physical signs noticed at the patients suffering from scoliosis may include:
- a visibly curved spine;
- uneven shoulders;
- uneven waist;
- one shoulder blade or hip being more prominent than the other;
- clothes not hanging properly;
- a tendency to lean to one side;
- back pain (this symptom is experienced only by adults).
If a scoliosis curve gets worse, the spine will also rotate or twist, in addition to curving side to side. This causes the ribs on one side of the body to stick out farther than on the other side. Severe scoliosis can cause back pain and difficulty breathing.
Although it appears to involve hereditary factors, doctors still do not know with certainty what causes the most common type of scoliosis. Nonetheless, it is not thought to be linked with things such as bad posture, exercise or diet. Less common types of scoliosis may be caused by:
- Neuromuscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy, neurofibromatosis or muscular dystrophy;
- Birth defects affecting the development of the bones of the spine. This kind of congenital scoliosis is caused by the bones in the spine developing abnormally in the womb;
- Injuries to or infections of the spine.
Risk factors for developing the most common type of scoliosis include:
- Age (Usually between the ages of 9 and 15);
- Sex (Girls have a much higher risk of the curve worsening and requiring treatment);
- Family history.
Scoliosis can sometimes cause further emotional and physical problems. Having a visibly curved spine or wearing a back brace can cause problems related to body image, self-esteem and overall quality of life. This is particularly the case for children and teenagers with scoliosis.
While most people with scoliosis have a mild form of the disorder, scoliosis may sometimes cause complications, including:
- Lung and heart damage;
- Back problems;