Key points | Bone growth and Paget’s disease | Risk factors | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Complications | Treatment | Medications | Self-management | Surgery | Where to get help | How we can help | More to explore | Download PDF
Paget’s disease of bone is a chronic condition that causes abnormal enlargement and weakening of bone. Any part of the skeleton can be affected, but the most common sites include the skull, spine, pelvis, thigh bone, shin and the upper arm.
Paget’s disease tends to affect people over the age of 50. It affects slightly more men than women.
Your bones are living tissue that is constantly growing, rebuilding, replacing and repairing. Bone tissue is maintained by cells called osteoblasts and osteoclasts. The osteoblasts build new bone, while the osteoclasts help to dispose of old bone.
In a person with Paget’s disease, the balance between these two groups of cells is disturbed. The osteoblasts become overactive and too much bone tissue is produced. The abnormal growth results in new bone tissue that’s weak and unstable. The new bone also contains more blood vessels than normal bone.
The reason for this accelerated bone growth is unknown. A combination of genetic and environmental factors (e.g. a virus) are suspected.
While the cause of Paget’s disease is unknown, risk factors include:
Many people don’t realise they have Paget’s disease because they don’t have any symptoms, or only mild symptoms. Paget’s disease is sometimes discovered by accident when a person has a blood test or x-ray for another reason.
Depending on how severe your condition is symptoms may include:
Paget’s disease is often discovered by accident during x-rays taken for some other reason.
The diagnosis can be confirmed by further x-rays, bone scans or by a particular blood test that checks for an enzyme crucial to bone growth called alkaline phosphatase.
For most people Paget’s disease progresses slowly and can be managed effectively. However in some cases complications can arise including:
Although there’s no cure for Paget’s disease of bone, there are treatments available to help you live well and manage your symptoms.
Learn more about Paget’s disease – knowing as much as possible about your condition means that you can make informed decisions about your healthcare and play an active role in the management of your condition.
Stay active – exercise helps to maintain bone health and joint mobility, as well as strengthen muscles. However as bones are weaker and more likely to fracture, certain forms of exercise are not suitable for people with Paget’s disease. It’s best to consult a physiotherapist or an exercise physiologist for an exercise program tailored specifically for you.
Seek supportive therapies –as well as tailored exercises, physiotherapists and occupational therapists can also provide techniques and/or devices that can help to improve movement, reduce pain and make everyday activities easier. Examples include:
Enjoy a healthy well-balanced diet – this can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of other health problems. Make sure you include calcium-rich foods.
Learn new ways to manage pain – there are many things you can do to manage pain – and different strategies will work for different situations. For example, heat packs can help ease muscle pain, cold packs can help with inflammation, gentle exercise can help relieve muscle tension. Try different techniques until you find the things that work best for you.
Stay at work – it’s good for your health and wellbeing. Talk to your doctor or allied healthcare professional about ways to help you to get back to or stay at work.
Join a peer support group – dealing with a chronic condition like Paget’s disease can be isolating. Being able to speak with others who understand your condition can be a great relief.
In severe cases, surgery may be required to relieve pinched nerves or bone fractures, or to replace a joint severely affected by arthritis.
Call our MSK Help Line and speak to our nurses. Phone 1800 263 265 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Information has been produced in consultation with and approved by: Musculoskeletal Australia