Scoliosis is described as an abnormal curvature of the spine. This disease is known to have existed throughout human history, as Hippocrates wrote about it as early as 500 BCE, but unfortunately, we still don’t understand why scoliosis forms in some people and not in others.
It is a surprisingly common disorder, with about three or four children per thousand of the general population will need the help of a specialist and about one child per thousand will need hospitalisation and the possibility of surgical corrective care. Scoliosis is very rarely present at birth, as it is a developmental disease.
Two forms of Scoliosis
The two forms of scoliosis are idiopathic and syndromic. Syndromic scoliosis occurs as the result of another medical issue, such as Marfan’s syndrome. Idiopathic scoliosis is much more common and its cause is not known. This type of scoliosis can either be early onset, or appear before the age of seven, or late onset, which appears after the age of seven and usually in adolescence.
There does seem to be a genetic connection, as twenty-five percent of those with scoliosis have a direct relative with curvature, and the vast majority of sufferers tend to be girls, at eighty percent.
Eight percent of girls with scoliosis will experience a strong curvature to the right, meaning that the ribs will have become twisted to the right which can cause a bulge in the back or the shoulder blade to stick out.
Symptoms of Scoliosis
While we don’t understand why the spine starts to twist, we do know that it can twist in nearly any place along the spine. The spine can be bent in either direction in the chest area (called thoracic scoliosis), in the lower part of the back (called lumbar scoliosis) or in the areas above or below these sections (called thoracolumbar scoliosis).
The spine can bend twice, producing an S shaped curve. This can actually be quite difficult to diagnose, as the two curves can counteract each other and the person can appear quite straight. If the curve is found lower in the spine, the ribs may not be affected but one hip may be lower than the other.
Treatment of Scoliosis
With less severe cases or if the child is nearly finished growing, the only treatment required may be checking the spine on a regular basis, as most will get better on its own. Some children may need regular observation by a specialist and bracing, which can help prevent the scoliosis from getting worse.
Those children with the most severe cases will need to undergo corrective surgery, in which a metal rod is often permanently inserted into the back, followed by wearing a brace or plaster jacket for a certain period of time.
Thanks to modern medical technology, scoliosis is only very rarely considered to be fatal and is very often discovered quite early, thanks to regular visits to your family GP and a watchful eye by physical education teachers. The earlier scoliosis is discovered, the greater the chances of correcting it and leading a normal, healthy life.