Paget's disease

Introduction

Paget’s disease is a condition where the normal cycle of bone renewal and repair is disrupted. In some cases, this can cause the affected bone (or bones) to become weakened and deformed.

Bone pain is the most common symptom of Paget’s disease. It most commonly affects the pelvis or spine and it is usually worse when lying down.

However, in many cases Paget’s disease does not cause any noticeable symptoms, and it is only diagnosed during tests for an unrelated medical condition or when an affected bone is fractured.

See the Health A-Z page on symptoms of Paget’s disease for more information.

There is no cure for the condition but the symptoms can be controlled by painkillers and a range of medications that help regulate bone growth.

Following treatment for Paget’s disease many people will have long periods of remission (where symptoms disappear) provided that the disease is picked up at an early stage. If the disease has progressed to an advanced stage by the time it is discovered, treatment is much less effective.

Complications of Paget’s disease are uncommon, but they can be potentially serious.

They include:

How common is Paget's disease?

After osteoporosis (brittle bones), Paget’s disease is the second most common type of bone disease.

Paget’s disease occurs among people of white British descent, possibly due to genetic factors. It is very rare among other ethnic groups, such as Asians and Africans.

Paget’s disease is most widespread in Britain and it is also relatively widespread in countries where there have been high levels of migration from Britain, such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and to a lesser extent the USA.

There is also a marked variation in the number of cases of Paget’s disease in different regions of Britain. For example, the condition is less common in the south of the country, where an estimated 1 in 100 people over the age of 55 is affected, and it is more widespread in the north, particularly in the county of Lancashire where 1 in 50 people of this age may be affected.

Who is affected by Paget’s disease?

Paget’s disease is an age-related condition. It is estimated that 1-2% of white adults aged over 55 have the condition. This figure increases to about 7% for white people who are over 80 years old.

Paget’s disease is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. See the Health A-Z page on causes of Paget’s disease for more information.

Glossary

Chronic
Chronic usually means a condition that continues for a long time or keeps coming back.
Deformed
Deformity is used to describe a part of the body that is not the usual shape. This could develop during pregnancy or as a result of a condition or injury.
Spine
The spine supports the skeleton, and surrounds and protects the delicate spinal cord and nerves. It is made up of 33 bones called the vertebrae.
Last updated: 28 December 2012

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