Paget’s Disease: What Women Should Know

pagets disease

Paget’s disease is a rare and chronic disorder affecting the skeleton. It is more common in older people, though it can affect younger people as well. The symptoms of Pagets disease are often similar to those of arthritis. 

The similarities between the symptoms can lead to a misdiagnosis. If misdiagnosed, people may lose the opportunity to receive early and effective treatment. You should be aware of what Paget’s disease is and how it is different from other common joint disorders. 

What is Paget’s disease?

Paget’s disease causes unusual growth of the bones. Bones become overgrown, but softer and weaker than normal. This condition may affect one or more bones. Paget’s does not spread from the affected bone to the other healthy bones. 

Paget’s disease tends to affect the pelvis, spine, skull, and legs. These bones become weak, abnormally shaped, and are prone to fractures. [1]

People may experience pain in the affected bones and joints. These symptoms mimic the symptoms of common conditions like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Osteoporosis occurs as a result of the loss of bone mineral density and the risk of fracture increases. Osteoarthritis occurs due to the inflammatory changes and wear and tear of the joints causing pain and stiffness.

The causes and treatment of Paget’s disease are different from those of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. People need to be aware of what Paget’s disease is so that they can receive specialized treatment to control the symptoms. 

Confusion about Paget’s Disease

The term, “Paget’s disease” is used to describe a bone condition and also two other, separate conditions. Paget’s Disease Of The Bones is not the same as Paget’s Disease Of The Breasts or Nipples. 

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Paget’s disease of the breasts is a form of breast cancer. It usually affects the nipple and extends to the areolar region, the dark circle of skin around the nipples. Paget’s disease of the breasts is not related to Paget’s disease of the bone, which is primarily a metabolic disorder. [2]

Paget’s disease of the breasts usually affects women older than 50. It may also affect the underlying tissues causing ductal breast cancer. In rare cases, this condition is confined to the nipple. [3]

Being aware of the different diseases referred to as, “Paget’s disease,” is essential to avoid confusion. 

How common is Pagets Disease Of The Bones?

The risk of Pagets disease increases with age. Paget’s rarely affects women under the age of 40. It is more common in women of Anglo-Saxon descent residing in England, Australia, the United States, New Zealand, and Western Europe. It is comparatively rare in China, Japan, Scandinavia, and India.

How is Paget’s disease related to arthritis?

Women with Paget’s disease may develop arthritis, although these are different diseases. Research studies reveal that Paget’s disease can increase the risk of developing arthritis. The enlargement and deformity of the bones affected by Paget’s disease can put extra strain and pressure on the nearby joints. This can trigger damage and inflammation in these joints, causing osteoarthritis. [4]

How does Paget’s disease occur?

The exact causes of Paget’s disease are not known. People who have a family history of this condition are more likely to suffer from it. Some research studies have also linked the risk of Paget’s diseases to infections by viruses. [5]

What are the signs and symptoms of Paget’s disease?

Paget’s disease of the bones does not affect all people in the same way. Some patients have very mild or no symptoms at all. Some cases result in serious complications. [6]

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The most common symptom of Paget’s disease is pain in the affected bones. Paget’s disease can cause pain and inflammation in the hip joint resulting in restricted movement. When this condition affects the skull, people may develop  an enlarged head, loss of hearing, or frequent headaches. 

Paget’s disease of the spine results in a curvature of the vertebral column, chronic back pain, and damage to the nerves arising from the spinal cord. This may lead to tingling and numbness in the arms and legs. Pagets disease in the leg bones is marked by the bowing of the legs and pain. It may also increase the risk of arthritis in the knee and hip joints. 

In rare cases, Paget’s disease can trigger abnormal changes in bone tissues, causing cancer.

Treatment of Paget’s disease

Paget’s disease is treated with medication to relieve pain and other symptoms. People may be advised to use a group of drugs called bisphosphonates. Bisphosphonates can slow down the progress of the disease. [7

Regular use of these drugs may help to inhibit the complications of Pagets disease and prevent worsening symptoms. However, it may not be possible to correct skeletal deformities. In severe cases, people may need surgery to correct a deformity. [8]

Exercise and staying active is important for people with Paget’s disease. Being active can help you control your weight, maintain healthy bones, and improve joint mobility.[9]

How will you know if the treatment of Paget’s disease is working?

X-rays of the affected bones can help you know if your treatment plan is working. The x-rays can show how your bone health is improving. 

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A test that measures the level of alkaline phosphatase in the blood can also help evaluate if the treatment is working and slowing the progress of Pagets disease. A decrease in serum alkaline phosphatase levels is an indication that the disease is less active. [10]

Conclusion

Being aware of the symptoms of Paget’s disease and knowing how it is different from other common bone diseases can help you avoid complications and possible surgery. Education is the key to seeking early treatment to control the progress of this disease.  

References:

  1. https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/pagets/overview
  2. https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/pagets-disease-of-the-breast/
  3. https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/types/pagets
  4. https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/pagets-disease
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16104845
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3383486/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4242688/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29192423
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430805/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1816067

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