Types Of Scoliosis
Idiopathic is a medical term meaning “occurring without known cause.” In other words, doctors don’t know why you developed scoliosis. Idiopathic scoliosis is broken down into four categories:
- Infantile idiopathic scoliosis is the term used for children under 3.
- Juvenile idiopathic scoliosis refers to children ages 3 to 9.
- Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is for children ages 10 to 18.
- Adult idiopathic scoliosis is the term for people who’ve reached skeletal maturity (i.e., their bones are fully grown).
Congenital means “present at birth.” Congenital scoliosis is the result of malformation of part of the spine, and this malformation happens sometime in the third to sixth week of a pregnancy—that’s when the spine starts to develop. Congenital scoliosis is usually the result of one side of a vertebra not forming fully. Doctors call this growth imbalance a hemivertebra, and it causes the spine to grow crooked. Congenital scoliosis can also occur when vertebrae don’t segment like they should; they’re naturally fused together in what’s called a block vertebra. That also affects how the spine grows.
Children who have a neurological system disorder-such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, or muscular dystrophy-can develop neuromuscular scoliosis. In this type of scoliosis, the spine usually takes on a long, c-shaped curve because the children have very weak trunks and aren’t able to support their bodies.
Observation is usually the first method of treatment for a young child with a spinal deformity. The physician will first need to determine if the curvature is progressing. Some children will have a curvature of their spine that is stable and unchanging, whereas other children will have a curve that relentlessly progresses. During this period of time, not only will your child’s doctor look for changes in the curve, but they will probably order some special tests to evaluate further the child’s condition and have you see some other doctors. These tests may include an MRI study or a CT study.
Scoliosis in patients between 10 and 18 years of age is termed adolescent scoliosis. By far the most common type of scoliosis is one in which the cause is not known. It is called “idiopathic” or adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS). Although significant ongoing research continues in this area, including the genetic basis for AIS, there are no identifiable causes for this condition today. Despite this, we currently have accurate methods to determine the risk for curve progression of scoliosis and good methods of treatment.
Adult or Degenerative Scoliosis
This type of scoliosis becomes apparent in later life. It usually occurs when the condition went unnoticed or was not treated during childhood. Osteoporosis, disc degeneration, a spinal compression fracture, or a combination of these problems can contribute to the development of adult scoliosis.
Over 80% of scoliosis cases are idiopathic, and of those cases, 80% are adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Idiopathic scoliosis is most common in girls.
Increasingly, scientists are finding evidence for some scoliosis running in families (genetic). So if someone else in your family has or has had scoliosis, you have a greater risk for developing it.