According to the Scoliosis Research Society, 85 percent of all scoliosis causes are idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown. The remaining causes of scoliosis include birth defects, such as vertebrae that form abnormally before birth, and certain disorders such as cerebral palsy, Marfan's syndrome, muscular dystrophy and Down syndrome. Infections and spinal fractures can also cause scoliosis.
Scoliosis is more common in girls than in boys, and the diagnosis is usually made after a child reaches 10 years of age. A doctor performs a physical examination and may take X-rays to definitively diagnose the disease. An X-ray tells if there is any growth left in the growth plates of the femur or humerus, and scoliosis can become worse if the patient has more growing to do, states MedicineNet. Serial X-rays are performed to track the changes of the spinal curve, which helps determine the best course of treatment.
Severe scoliosis can lead to heart and lung problems if not treated, as the ribs press against the chest, making breathing more difficult, states Mayo Clinic. Adults who had scoliosis as a child may experience more back pain throughout their lives as compared to people without scoliosis.
Treatment of scoliosis depends on the severity and cause of the disease. Disease caused by neuromuscular disorders generally requires surgery to correct the spinal curvature. People with idiopathic scoliosis are treated either with watchful waiting or bracing to prevent worsening of the spinal curvature, notes MedicineNet.