Parenting

Scoliosis Symptoms and Causes

Scoliosis Symptoms and Causes

Key Takeaways

  • Scoliosis is a condition that occurs mainly in children below the age of puberty.
  • There is no causative factor determined as yet, as to what causes the bend in the backbone.
  • It is not unheard of for elderly patients to develop scoliosis, and there is an increasing trend in patients above the age of 55 developing the same.

Scoliosis often occurs in kids below the age of puberty. Some of the most common signs of scoliosis happen to be the following:

  • Sloping shoulders
  • Droop in bearing
  • One shoulder is larger than the other
  • Waist not even
  • Hips do not align with each other

These are some of the signs that the child in question has scoliosis and must be taken right away to a doctor for an immediate consultation and treatment of the condition. If left untreated, then the bend in the spine will get more prominent, and may even rotate on its axis, causing the ribs on one side or the other to jut out. So an immediate consult is essential to prevent the condition from degenerating any further.

While this condition mainly occurs in children before the onset of puberty, it is not unheard of for elderly people to develop the same, and there is a hike in the number of elderly patients with a decided C or S shape to their backbone.

Types of scoliosis:

While there is no root cause for scoliosis in general, certain types of scoliosis are caused by some factors. Here are some of the main types of scoliosis:

  • Infantile idiopathic scoliosis – This often occurs in children below the age of three and can be treated, provided treatment is given at the right juncture.
  • Juvenile idiopathic scoliosis – This occurs in children older than three but less than 10 years of age; it can be treated with scans, braces, and surgery as required and recommended by the doctor in question.
  • Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis – This condition generally occurs in children older than ten years of age and can be treated if caught in time, with the right medication, surgery, etc. 

Causes:

While it is hard to identify a single cause for most scoliosis cases occurring in children, there are, nevertheless, a few causative factors that have been identified as likely culprits. Here are some of them:

  • Muscular dystrophies – Muscular dystrophies are caused by the lack of an essential protein, dystrophin. The condition often occurs among children and is known to cause scoliosis in them. Although muscular dystrophies can occur at any point of time, the fact remains that they mainly occur in children who, as a result, develop a pronounced bend in their backbone.  Unfortunately, there’s no known cure for dystrophy at the moment.
  • Polio – Although polio remains a disease that has been eradicated, a few cases do pop up in rural areas. And polio, being a degenerative disease, will lead to permanent paralysis and even cause scoliosis, which is why all those who have survived polio tend to develop a pronounced bend in their spine.
  • Turner syndrome – Turner syndrome is where a female child has an aberrant chromosome; typically, boys have one x and one y chromosome, whereas girls have two x chromosomes, and it is here that the aberration occurs and affects nearly one in two thousand females. There is no known cure, and those with Turner syndrome may develop a curvature in their backbone (scoliosis).
  • Basal cell nervus syndrome – This is a rare genetic condition and may be hereditary as well. It affects the skin, bones, and eyes, and can cause skin cancer. Along with these, the syndrome can cause a bend in the spine as well.

General causes of scoliosis:

Scoliosis can be caused by various factors. Here are some of them, grouped accordingly.

  • Functional causes – Here, the spine is near normal but develops a bend later on, as a result of other conditions such as polio etc. Furthermore, the bend in the backbone may be caused by one leg being shorter than the other one, or even by muscle spasms as well.
  • Neuromuscular causes – Here, the spinal bones do not develop properly while the fetus is forming and, as a result, this can often lead to several degenerative conditions from Marfan’s to cerebral palsy, and more. In such cases, the person does not have the staying power to remain upright and has weak muscles and, as a result, develops a pronounced C spine. Immediate treatment is necessary for some quick relief.
  • Degenerative diseases – This occurs due to several conditions where the patient develops a degenerative disease, and the end result is a bend in the spine.

Scoliosis in older people:

Scoliosis does not just occur in younger people but can also affect those who are advanced in age. This could be on account of various factors, but one of the leading causes of scoliosis in the elderly is osteoporosis. This is a degenerative condition that affects the bones and especially the spine, knees, and hips. Such patients often develop a pronounced sensation of pain on one side of their body, which causes them to favor another side. As a result, they often develop a complementary spinal curve. While doctors may prescribe painkillers, given the patients' condition and osteoporosis, surgery is often not recommended.

Furthermore, the bend in the spine causes them to walk with a slant and in a weird gait, moreover this gait is further pronounced as their current condition degenerates further. While there is no immediate cure, the only course of action at the moment happens to be painkillers to lessen the pain and allow such patients to lead the course of the rest of their lives with some normalcy. The worrying trend as far as elderly patients go is that elderly people are now more often developing scoliosis much earlier during the course of their lives.

Risks of Scoliosis

While there are various risks associated with this condition, chief among them happens to be age, as most patients develop scoliosis either before or during the onset of puberty. Furthermore, girls develop scoliosis more frequently than boys, and moreover, it often runs in the same family. So if you happen to be at a young age, and are just about to reach puberty and have elderly family members with the same condition, then the chances of you developing the same go up exponentially.

Complications of Scoliosis

It is not easy for any patient to handle this disease at any stage of their lives, since it often makes them extremely self-conscious about their gait and general appearance. But that aside, patients with scoliosis may develop additional problems, from experiencing sharp pains radiating from their spine as they sit in a position or walk fast. Scoliosis patients are often unable to walk fast, let alone run, on account of their pronounced gait. This is why it is important for these patients to seek medical attention the moment the condition becomes noticeable.

If left untreated, the condition can degenerate further and even cause complications such as heart and lung damage. As the bend gets more pronounced and the spine rotates, it presses against the lungs and the heart, and this can damage the same and lead to additional health complications. Apart from these, those with scoliosis will have pronounced back pain which the patients have often described as ‘radiating from the back’.

This pain is unlikely to be managed with painkillers alone until the underlying condition is treated. Until then, the patients will continue to experience sharp bouts of pain, and this is bound to get worse over time.

While in the case of younger children the condition can be treated with scans, effective medication, surgery, and braces, it is often difficult to put elderly patients through the same process.

Regular checkups:

It is often easy to miss seeing the curvature of the spine unless the condition degrades fast. This is why it is important to get a regular screening done, especially if you happen to fall in the risk category. Make sure that you make an appointment and get an x-ray done and consult a specialist. With a few x-rays done, your doctor should be able to tell you whether there is a bend in your spine or not.

The good news is that with modern treatment, scoliosis can be treated if caught in time. And when checking with the doctor regarding the x-rays, you may want to ask him about the prognosis and necessary changes to your lifestyle. Patients with scoliosis can lead a normal life with the right treatment and even opt against surgery depending on their preference.

However, if the curvature is very pronounced, the only way it can be effectively treated is through surgery to the spine and backbone.

Tests of Scoliosis:

Often, scoliosis cases are hard to diagnose in their early stages, and the health care professional may want you to undergo a few tests before him or her stating a confirmed diagnosis. These are some of the tests that a healthcare professional may use to check whether you have this condition or not:

The healthcare professional will want some x-rays done, preferably over a period of time to better examine the bend in the spine. Apart from this, during the initial examination, he may ask you to undress and ask you to touch your toes. By touching the toes, the spinal curvature should be visible, and the doctor can check and confirm the same.

However, if it is not clearly visible, the the doctor will examine your body for symmetry, whether your hips are correctly aligned with each other, same with your shoulders and so on. The doctor may also examine your skin to see if there are any discolorations or changes which may indicate the onset of the condition. He will then issue his diagnosis only after these tests are done and can confirm that you do indeed have scoliosis.

On confirming the condition, your doctor will advise you to consult a few specialists, since surgery may be required. You can discuss all the various treatment options with the doctor as well as the specialists, and then make an informed choice. It is important, however, that you seek immediate medical attention upon experiencing sharp pangs of pain emanating from the spinal area. The doctor may just suggest an aggressive course of treatment along with braces and surgery in severe cases.

Life: Upon being diagnosed with scoliosis, your life will have to change to accommodate the fact that you have this condition. There’s no reason to be depressed, because hundreds of thousands are diagnosed with the same threatening condition but have gone on to live their lives to the fullest. The condition is treatable, provided you get the medical attention at the right time. Furthermore, the incessant pain and discomfort will only decrease in intensity once you seek treatment for the same.

Furthermore, you can also opt for yoga, pain therapy, and massages as a way to limit your pain. This is why it is important that you remain upbeat about your condition and seek your doctor’s advice right away. Physical therapy should help you manage the pain effectively and soon, you should be able to lead a normal or near normal life. More importantly, it is important that you share the news of this condition with your loved and near-and-dear ones, so that they can provide you with the emotional support and care you need, as you undergo treatment for scoliosis.

The condition is treatable and you can lead a near-normal life even if you opt out of surgery as a treatment option for your current condition. And with some of the pain management therapies currently available, you should be able to limit your pain to the bare minimum.