What Causes Scoliosis?
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In 80 to 85 percent of people, the cause of scoliosis is
unknown; this is called idiopathic scoliosis. Before concluding that a
person has idiopathic scoliosis, the doctor looks for other possible
causes, such as injury or infection. Causes of curves are classified as
either nonstructural or structural.
- Nonstructural (functional) scoliosis--A structurally normal
spine that appears curved. This is a temporary, changing curve. It is
caused by an underlying condition such as a difference in leg length,
muscle spasms, or inflammatory conditions such as appendicitis.
Doctors treat this type of scoliosis by correcting the underlying
- Structural scoliosis--A fixed curve that doctors treat case
by case. Sometimes structural scoliosis is one part of a syndrome or
disease, such as Marfan's syndrome, an inherited connective tissue
disorder. In other cases, it occurs by itself. Structural scoliosis
can be caused by neuromuscular diseases (such as cerebral palsy,
poliomyelitis, or muscular dystrophy), birth defects (such as
hemivertebra, in which one side of a vertebra fails to form normally
before birth), injury, certain infections, tumors (such as those
caused by neurofibromatosis, a birth defect sometimes associated with
benign tumors on the spinal column), metabolic diseases, connective
tissue disorders, rheumatic diseases, or unknown factors (idiopathic