Paget’s Disease of Bone

What is Paget’s Disease of Bone?

Paget’s Disease of Bone is a condition that causes abnormalities and overgrowth of bone in mature adults. Contrary to popular belief, bones do not stop growing when the body reaches physical maturity. Bone loss and renewal continues throughout life, but those with Paget’s disease are afflicted with abnormal formation of new bone tissue.

The new cells are unorganized and result in softer frailer bones. The cause of Paget’s disease is not fully understood, but it is thought to be caused by a virus that targets specific bone cells. It can also be hereditary. It can strike multiple areas of the body including the spine, pelvis, limbs and skull, or it can affect just a one or two locations. Blood tests, imaging and biopsies are used to diagnose the disease.

What are the Symptoms of Paget’s Disease of Bone?

The majority of people with Paget’s disease of bone are asymptomatic. Those with symptoms may experience:

  • Bone deformity
  • Warm feeling in affected areas
  • Headaches
  • Hearing impairment
  • Vision loss
  • Painful joints and bones
  • Weakness, numbness and/or tingling

The bones can break much more easily, and nerves can become pinched. Because the heart has to pump harder to circulate blood to affected locations, heart failure can occur in Paget’s disease patients with existing heart disease. Walking can become a challenge when afflicted with arthritis and bowing of the legs. Bone cancer is a very rare result of the disease.

Paget’s Disease of Bone Causes

The exact cause of Paget’s disease of bone is not known. One suspected cause is genetic factors that the patient is born with. People are more likely to have this disease if they have a close family member who has it. Another possible cause is the patient getting a viral infection as a child. It has been linked to the measles virus, respiratory syncytial virus and the distemper virus in dogs. The disease progresses as bone tissue breaks down and new bone forms in an abnormal fashion. The new bone area is larger than it was before, but it is also weaker.

The cause of this new bone creation may be due to a disease of the osteoclast, the type of cell that controls bone resorption. Another factor is age. Those over 55 years of age are more likely to have this disease. Paget’s disease of bone may be associated with the Sequestrosome 1 gene on chromosome 5. When this is triggered by a viral infection, it may cause the disease to develop. People who have European ancestry are more likely to develop it, suggesting a hereditary connection. In almost one-third of cases, the patient has one or more family members who also have this disease.

How is Paget’s Disease of Bone Treated?

Treatment for Paget’s disease of bone depends on the symptoms and their severity. Those without symptoms do not require treatment. Treatment for those with symptoms may include:

  • Medications to strengthen bone
  • Pain relievers
  • Walking aids
  • Physical therapy
  • Surgical procedures to repair fractures, replace
  • joints, realign bones and to relieve pinched nerves

For the majority of those with Paget’s disease, overall quality of life is are not adversely affected, and the prognosis is good.

Paget’s Disease of Bone Prevention

Because the disease often starts for no discernible reason, it is not always possible to prevent it. In order to lower your risk of developing it, exercise regularly and eat a diet that is higher in vitamin D and calcium. All of these lifestyle changes will strengthen your bones and reduce your risk. Living a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and plenty of physical activity is key. If you have been diagnosed with Paget’s disease of bone, get treatment right away. Being treated for this disease can prevent it from progressing and causing more damage.