Paget’s Bone Disease

Paget’s disease of bone is a chronic condition that upsets the normal biological process of the bones. Bone is living tissue engaged in a continual process of renewal. Old bone breaks down, dissolves and is replaced by new bone. Paget’s disease is a disruption of this remodeling process. In bones with Paget’s disease, bone tissue breaks down faster than new bone can be generated. The body responds by rebuilding new bone too quickly, but not well. This rapid remodeling produces bone that is chaotic and bulky, resulting in enlarged and deformed bones. Over time, the affected bone grows weak, which can lead to bone pain, arthritis, progressive deformities and fractures.

Any bone can be affected in Paget’s disease, but it occurs most frequently in the spine, skull, pelvis and legs. Some patients will have only one affected bone, while others may have two, three or more. The disease does not usually spread to unaffected bones.

Although Paget’s disease is the second most common bone disease after osteoporosis, it is still uncommon. About one million people in the United States have the disease. It is more common in older people, and slightly more men than women have it.

To help diagnose the disease, a physician may use an x-ray, an alkaline phosphatase blood test and/or a bone scan. Most people with Paget’s disease have no symptoms. They may never know they have the disease until it progresses and complications develop.

Sometimes, symptoms are confused with arthritis or other disorders.