Paget's disease

Symptoms of Paget's disease

Paget’s disease usually affects the bones of the pelvis or spine. Other areas of the body that can also be affected include the skull, the shoulders and the long bones in the arms and legs – particularly the thigh bone.

Bone pain

Bone pain is the most common symptom of Paget’s disease. The pain has been described as a dull, constant, "boring" sensation deep within the affected part of the body. The pain is usually worse at night when you are lying down.

As Paget’s disease progresses, you may experience deformities in the affected bones, such as twisted or misshaped limbs or scoliosis (curvature of the spine). Affected bones can sometimes fracture (break), particularly the longer bones in your arms and legs.

Symptoms of fractured bones include:

  • pain and swelling in the affected area
  • bruising or discoloured skin around the bone or joint
  • the limb or body part being bent at an unusual angle (angulation)

Other symptoms

Paget’s disease can cause a range of other symptoms depending on which bones are affected by the condition. These are described below.

The skull

If Paget’s disease develops inside the bones of your skull it can cause the following symptoms:

  • hearing loss – which can be total or partial
  • vertigo – feeling very dizzy or the sensation that you are moving when standing still
  • headaches
  • tinnitus – a constant buzzing or ringing noise in your ears

The joints

Abnormal bone growth can cause damage to nearby cartilage. Cartilage is the thick, spongy tissue that cushions your joints. Cartilage damage can lead to progressive joint damage, which is known as osteoarthritis.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • pain
  • stiffness – which is worse when you wake up in the morning, but usually improves within about 30 minutes of starting to move
  • difficulty moving your affected joints

The nerves

Many of the major nerves in your body run through, or alongside, your bones. Abnormal bone growth can result in a bone compressing (squeezing), "pinching" or damaging a nerve.

Depending on where the affected nerve is and its main purpose, this can lead to a wide range of symptoms. Possible symptoms affecting the nerves (neurological symptoms) include:

  • pain that travels from the base of your spine down into your legs (sciatica)
  • pain that travels from your neck into your arms and chest (cervical radiculopathy)
  • numbness or tingling in the affected limbs
  • partial loss of movement in your limbs
  • loss of balance
  • bowel incontinence or urinary incontinence (the loss of bowel or bladder control)

When to seek medical advice

You should always visit your GP if you:

  • have persistent bone pain
  • notice deformities in any of your bones
  • experience any neurological symptoms, such as numbness or tingling

Glossary

Aching
An ache is a constant dull pain in a part of the body.
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.
Inflammation
Inflammation is the body's response to infection, irritation or injury, which causes redness, swelling, pain and sometimes a feeling of heat in the affected area.
Joint
Joints are the connection point between two bones that allow movement.
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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