Paget’s disease of bone is a condition that occurs when bone cells function abnormally. Over time, the condition causes fragility and deformity of the bones, which can lead to fractures, osteoarthritis, and joint pain.
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The most frequently affected areas are the pelvis, hip, neck, and back.
Although scientists do not know the cause of Paget’s disease, there is evidence that environmental factors and genetics play an important role. Paget’s disease most commonly affects people over age 40. It is more common in men than women.
Although there is no cure for Paget’s disease, the symptoms can be abated. Early diagnosis is important because having Paget’s disease puts you at greater for bone fractures.
Paget’s Disease Diagnosis
Paget’s disease can cause the following symptoms:
- Persistent pain in the pelvis, hip, neck and/or back
- Bone pain that is worse at night
- Misshapen and fragile bones
If the spine is involved, sufferers of Paget’s disease may experience neurological symptoms, including tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness.
Because misshapen bones can increase pressure on nearby joints, many people with Paget’s disease also have osteoarthritis. A blood test may detect increased levels of alkaline phosphatase in the blood.
Additionally, to diagnose Paget’s disease, your doctor will perform one of the following diagnostic imaging tests:
An x-ray provides an overall assessment of the health of the bones in the affected area. Your doctor will look for signs of deformities, including abnormal enlargement, misalignment and fractures.
A skeletal scintigraphy (also known as a bone scan) is an imaging test that can identify changes in bones before structural changes can be seen on an x-ray.
A tiny amount of radioactive material is injected intravenously before the procedure. This enables the doctor to see areas of increased activity in the bone, which is indicative of abnormalities.
Treatment for Paget’s Disease
Here is a summary of the most common treatments for Paget’s disease:
Your doctor will likely prescribe bisphosphonates to prevent the loss of bone density and reduce the risk of fractures.
You may also need to take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, to reduce bone and joint pain. Your doctor may prescribe stronger medication as needed to treat pain.
Eating a balanced, bone-healthy diet will support your body. It is important to get enough calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin D - especially if you are taking bisphosphonate medication.
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Foods that are high in these nutrients include yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, and fish. Your doctor may send you to a licensed nutritionist to review your diet and determine whether you should take vitamin and calcium supplements.
People with Paget’s disease can benefit from physical therapy. Your physical therapist will show you gentle exercises that will help you strengthen muscles, increase joint mobility and relieve pressure on affected areas. Physical therapy can also correct muscle imbalances that cause pressure and pain.
Many people get relief from pain through acupuncture, a 3,000-year-old healing technique of traditional Chinese medicine. During the procedure, fine needles are inserted in targeted areas of the body.
Acupuncture prompts your body to release certain hormones and endorphins that reduce pain. It also calms the nervous system and provides increased blood flow and circulation.
Apply Hot or Cold Packs
If you are experiencing pain, apply heat or ice to the area.
Heat will relax the muscles. Cold will help to reduce inflammation and will ease symptoms of osteoarthritis caused by Pagets disease.
In rare cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to realign bones, repair fractures, replace damaged joints, or reduce pressure on surrounding nerves.
Living with Paget’s Disease
If you have been diagnosed with Paget’s disease, it is important to be proactive. Paget's disease progresses slowly and worsens over time. Conservative treatment options, like medication and physical therapy, are often effective treatment solutions.
Because having Paget’s disease puts you at greater risk for bone fractures, try to fall-proof your home as much as possible. Install handrails on stairways. Use nonskid mats in your bathtub. Avoid any movements that strain the pelvis, back or neck. In your daily activities, be mindful not to put unnecessary stress on your body. If you feel unsteady, ask your doctor if you should be using a cane or walker.
Regularly practicing gentle yoga, swimming or some other form of low-impact exercise will improve the way you feel. Maintaining and building muscle strength is important. Always ask your doctor before beginning a new diet or exercise regimen.
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