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"Is there a hereditary factor for spondylolysis?"


My father had it and now I am experiencing lower back pain. Could he have passed it to me? I'm a 22 year old male athlete.


First I want to clarify a point, though your question refers to spondylosis of the low back this is a condition that is seen on incidentally on x-rays, but is not thought to be related to any symptoms, including back pain. I suspect you meant to ask about spondylitis, which is a condition associated with back pain and much more pertinent to your question. Low back pain has a number of causes, and generally speaking spondylitis is fairly low on the list.

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The full name for spondylitis is ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and it belongs to a family of diseases called spondyloarthropathies . AS is an autoimmune disease characterized by a number of features affecting the spine, joints, and eyes among other tissues. The most common symptoms are are pain and stiffness in the back, which is especially noticeable at night and frequently improves with activity during the day. Some of the most common joints affected are the sacroiliac joints, which are the joints between the sacrum (tailbone) and the Ilium (hip). Other symptoms include heel pain, eye irritation, and other more general symptoms such as fatigue, loss of appetite, etc. The disease most commonly presents between the ages of 20 and 40. To answer your question about heritability requires a little explanation. The disease is more common among males than females and it is associated with a specific gene HLA-B27. Almost all Caucasians that have AS have this gene. However, people who don’t have AS can have the gene, as well. So just having the gene doesn’t ensure that you’ll get AS. Scientists think there are other genes involved, and they suspect that environmental factors such as GI tract infections also contribute. Moreover, the likelihood of getting AS depends on which parent has it. About 10% of children will have AS if their fathers are the ones with the disease, whereas about 40% of children will have the disease if their mothers have it. So fathers are much less likely to pass on AS to their children than mothers. Please discuss this with your primary care physician or a rheumatologist, who can best evaluate your symptoms and discuss your options. Good luck!

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