Paget’s disease of the bone is a common medical condition which affects people over the age of 50. The condition is named after Sir James Paget, who identified the condition in the late 19th century.
According to the Paget’s Association website:
Paget’s disease rarely occurs in those under 50. In the UK, it presents in approximately 8% of men and 5% of women, by the age of 80 years.”
You may have already seen our guide to the 15 most common medical conditions that affect older people. Today’s article focuses solely on Paget’s disease of the bone, including the causes, symptoms and treatments available.
What is Paget’s Disease?
Paget’s disease of the bone disrupts the normal cycle of bone renewal and therefore causes your bones to become weak and in some cases, deformed. The condition commonly affects the bones in the pelvis, spine and skull, although it can also affect other areas of the body.
Paget’s Disease of the bone is triggered by a flaw in your bone cell regeneration system. Two cells are responsible for the regeneration of your bone cells:
- Osteoclasts – cells that absorb old bone.
- Osteoblasts – cells that make new bone.
The condition occurs when the osteoclast cells begin to absorb bone at a faster pace than usual. This then leads to your Osteoblast cells attempting to produce new bone quicker than usual – which creates larger, weaker bones than normal.
It is not yet known why this process occurs but it is believed that you are at more risk of being diagnosed with Paget’s disease of the bone if it runs in your family.
Paget’s disease of the bone can affect a single or whole host of bones in your body, but as previously mentioned the bones commonly affected are the pelvis, spine and skull. Symptoms of the condition include:
- Joint pain.
- Joint stiffness and swelling.
- Constant, dull bone pain.
- Shooting pain that travels along or across the body.
- Numbness and tingling.
- Loss of movement in a part of the body.
These are the symptoms to look out for, however, in many cases, no symptoms are triggered by the condition. It is common for Paget’s disease to be diagnosed following tests for other medical concerns or conditions.
This medical condition can be diagnosed with a blood test and an X-ray/scan. The blood test used to help with diagnosis is carried out to check the level of a substance called alkaline phosphatase (ALP) in your blood.
Those affected by Paget’s Disease of the bone will often have raised levels of ALP. However, because a high level of ALP can be caused by other conditions, an X-ray or scan is required to confirm the diagnosis.
This will show whether your bones have become enlarged as a result of the condition. In some cases, a special scan called a scintigraphy may also be carried out to see how much of your body is affected. This involves a small amount of radioactive substance being injected into your blood. This will collect in areas where there is a lot of bone renewal taking place. A camera will then be used to detect the radiation and highlight affected parts of your body.
Currently there is no cure for Paget’s disease of the bone. Fortunetly there are treatments available that can help relieve some of the pain caused by the condition. The NHS state that the following treatments are available:
A group of medicines that can help to regulate bone growth, by affecting the cells that absorb old bone. There are several different types of Bisphosphonates available, the most common of which are risedronate, zoledronate and pamidronate. This medication can help to reduce the pain caused by Paget’s Disease of the bone for several years at a time.
Over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen will help to reduce any pain caused by your condition. You should always make sure that you read the packet or leaflet before you starting taking painkillers, to ensure that they are suitable for you.
Some people affect by Paget’s Disease can benefit from supportive therapies such as occupational and physiotherapy. Both offer exercises and techniques that can help to reduce pain, improve movement and make everyday tasks easier for you.
Items such as walking sticks, orthotics insoles, and spinal braces can help to reduce the weight placed on the affect bones.
In serious cases, where further problems such as fractures and osteoporosis develop, you may need to have surgery. Common procedures include realigning the bones after a fracture, removing and replacing damaged joints with an artificial one, cutting and straightening deformed bones and moving bone away from a compressed nerve.
Calcium and vitamin D will help to keep your bones and healthy and should be included in your diet. You will find calcium in dairy products such as cheese and milk, as well as green vegetables and soya beans.
Unfortunately, Paget’s disease of the bone can sometimes lead to further complications. The NHS list the following as examples:
- Fragile bones that will break more easily.
- Enlarged or misshapen bones. For example, your legs curving outwards and your spine curving to the sides.
- Hearing loss.
- Too much calcium in your blood, known as hypercalcemia.
- Heart problems.
- Bone cancer – although this is quite rare, affecting an eastimated one in every 100 and one in every 1000 affected people.
Paget’s disease of the bone qualifies you for VAT Exemption when you order a personal alarm system from Lifeline24. HMRC state that a product which has been “designed or adapted for a disability” qualifies for VAT exemption.
To qualify for VAT Exemption, you need to have a long-term illness, a terminal illness or a disability.
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