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Scoliosis Fact Sheet

What Is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is an abnormal curve of the spine (backbone). With scoliosis, the spine isn't straight. Instead, the spine is crooked and curves to the side. If the spine is very crooked, the ribs or hips may stick out more on one side than on the other side. Also, one shoulder may be lower than the other. Scoliosis may even begin in childhood but often is not noticed until the teenage years. In most cases, the exact cause of scoliosis isn't known. It seems to run in some families. Girls are much more prone to developing scoliosis than boys. Girls over the age of 9 are five times more likely to be diagnosed with the condition than boys of the same age. Many times, a person with scoliosis has been developing the condition since childhood. But because scoliosis can develop very gradually, in most cases it isn't diagnosed until a person is between the ages of 10 to 14. In scoliosis, the spine slowly curves from side to side into an £OS"shape. In most people, the curve in the spine is so small that it causes no problems. 'When the curve gets severe, it can be visible and cause discomfort. If the curve gets really severe, it can even affect a person's breathing and heart function.

How Is Scoliosis Diagnosed?

Some children have visible signs of scoliosis. Look at your child's spine to see if it curves or if it's straight. Sometimes a curvature of the spine is obvious or one shoulder blade is noticeably higher than the other one. Other times, though, it's not so obvious since scoliosis doesn't hurt or happen suddenly, it's not always easy to diagnose. Your doctor may also examine your child for scoliosis at a regular check-up. You doctor may be able to tell if your child has scoliosis just ,by looking at your child's back when it is in different positions. Your doctor may have your child stand and bend over to touch the toes. Sometimes, x-rays help show the curve in the spine.

Dealing With Scoliosis

With the right kind of treatment - whether it involves a brace or surgery - almost every child with scoliosis can have an active, normal life. Teens diagnosed with scoliosis can take part in sports, hold down after school jobs, and pretty much do whatever teenagers without scoliosis can dol If your teen has a friend or classmate who has scoliosis, remember that a curve in someone's spine doesD't represent their character - and that if it were up to them, they'd probably choose not to wear a brace or undergo surgery. Children with scoliosis like to be treated like all other children because they are like all other children.

Treating Scoliosis

In most cases, no treatment is needed. Your doctor will check your child regularly to make sure the curve isn't getting worse. Sometimes a brace is worn to keep the spine from curving. Brac(~s are worn by about 20% of children with scoliosis, and most children only need to wear them for 18 to 20 hours a day. Newer braces are light and less bulky .than old braces. Most braces fit under the clothes and are not visible.

Will My Child Need Surgery?

If a brace doesn't stop the spine from curving, surgery may be needed. During surgery, the bones in the spine
may be moved and joined together to strengthen the spine or a rod may be placed in the spine to straighten it.

References: Getting Things Straight A Guide to Scoliosis, The Nemours Foundation
Scoliosis Fact Sheet - Lynchburg City Schools
Scoliosis: Information From Your Family Doctor at http://familydoctor.orglhandoutsll07.btml
For more information contact: The National Institute of Health at 1232 22nd Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037-1292.
Phone: (202)223-0344 or (800)624-BONE(2663); TrY (202)466-4315; FAX (202)223-2237; Web site www.osteo.org.