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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Intervertebral disc disease


* Not a rare disease
Other Names for this Disease
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • IDD
  • Intervertebral disc degeneration
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Your Question

What can cause a person to have such a condition and what can one do for this condition?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What causes intervertebral disc disease?

Intervertebral disc disease (IDD) is a multifactorial disorder, which means that both genetic and environmental factors probably interact to predispose an individual to the condition. It is likely that several factors are needed for development of IDD. Factors such as occupational stress, trauma, or obesity, together with genetic alterations, may result in the structural weakness of a disc, cause a herniation, and possibly initiate a cascade of events leading to sciatica and pathological disc changes.[1] One of the best-known environmental risk factors for IDD is vibration in occupational driving.[2] Inflammation is also likely to play an important role in the progression of this process.[1]
Last updated: 3/12/2012

How might intervertebral disc disease be treated?

In the absence of red flags, the initial approach to treatment is typically conservative and includes physical therapy and pain medications. In 90% of affected individuals, acute attacks of sciatica usually improve within 4 to 6 weeks without surgical intervention.[3] In cases where surgical intervention is necessary, surgical procedures may include discectomy or spinal fusion.[4]
Last updated: 3/12/2012

  • Noponen-Hietala N. et al. Genetic variations in IL6 associate with intervertebral disc disease characterized by sciatica. Pain. March 2005; 114(1-2):186-194.
  • Virtanen IM et al. Occupational and genetic risk factors associated with intervertebral disc disease. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). May 1, 2007; 32(10):1129-1134.
  • Young K, Brown R, Kaufmann L. Clinical inquiries. When is discectomy indicated for lumbar disc disease?. J Fam Pract. August 2011; 60(8):490-491.
  • Sakai D. Future perspectives of cell-based therapy for intervertebral disc disease. Eur Spine J. December 2008; 17 Suppl 4:452-458.