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Disease Profile

Intervertebral disc disease

Prevalence estimates on Rare Medical Network websites are calculated based on data available from numerous sources, including US and European government statistics, the NIH, Orphanet, and published epidemiologic studies. Rare disease population data is recognized to be highly variable, and based on a wide variety of source data and methodologies, so the prevalence data on this site should be assumed to be estimated and cannot be considered to be absolutely correct.


US Estimated

Europe Estimated

Age of onset





Autosomal dominant A pathogenic variant in only one gene copy in each cell is sufficient to cause an autosomal dominant disease.


Autosomal recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of each gene of the chromosome are needed to cause an autosomal recessive disease and observe the mutant phenotype.


dominant X-linked dominant inheritance, sometimes referred to as X-linked dominance, is a mode of genetic inheritance by which a dominant gene is carried on the X chromosome.


recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of a gene on the X chromosome cause an X-linked recessive disorder.


Mitochondrial or multigenic Mitochondrial genetic disorders can be caused by changes (mutations) in either the mitochondrial DNA or nuclear DNA that lead to dysfunction of the mitochondria and inadequate production of energy.


Multigenic or multifactor Inheritance involving many factors, of which at least one is genetic but none is of overwhelming importance, as in the causation of a disease by multiple genetic and environmental factors.


Not applicable


Other names (AKA)

IDD; Intervertebral disc degeneration; Degenerative disc disease


Intervertebral disc disease (IDD) is a common musculoskeletal condition that primarily affects the back. It is characterized by intervertebral disc herniation and/or sciatic pain (sciatica) and is a primary cause of low back pain, affecting about 5% of individuals.[1][2][3] Both environmental and genetic factors are thought to predispose an individual to developing the condition.[3] Treatment for IDD may include physical therapy, pain medications, and sometimes surgical intervention such as discectomy or spinal fusion.[2]


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.[3] One of the best-known environmental risk factors for IDD is vibration in occupational driving.[1] Inflammation is also likely to play an important role in the progression of this process.[3]


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.[4] In cases where surgical intervention is necessary, surgical procedures may include discectomy or spinal fusion.[2]

Learn more

These resources provide more information about this condition or associated symptoms. The in-depth resources contain medical and scientific language that may be hard to understand. You may want to review these resources with a medical professional.

Where to Start

  • Genetics Home Reference (GHR) contains information on Intervertebral disc disease. This website is maintained by the National Library of Medicine.

In-Depth Information

  • Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) is a catalog of human genes and genetic disorders. Each entry has a summary of related medical articles. It is meant for health care professionals and researchers. OMIM is maintained by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. 
  • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Intervertebral disc disease. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.


  1. 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.
  2. Sakai D. Future perspectives of cell-based therapy for intervertebral disc disease. Eur Spine J. December 2008; 17 Suppl 4:452-458.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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