Paget's Disease of Bone

What is Paget's disease of bone?

Paget's disease is a chronic disorder that typically results in enlarged and deformed bones. The excessive breakdown and formation of bone tissue that occurs with Paget's disease can cause bone to weaken, resulting in bone pain, arthritis, deformities, and fractures. Paget's disease may be caused by a "slow virus" infection, present for many years before symptoms appear. There is also a hereditary factor since the disease may appear in more than one family member.

Who is Affected?

Paget's disease is rarely diagnosed in people under 40 years of age. Men and women are affected equally. Prevalence of Paget's disease ranges from 1.5 to 8 percent depending on age and country of residence. Prevalence of familial Paget's disease (where more than one family member has the disease) ranges from 10 to 40 percent in different parts of the world. Because early diagnosis and treatment is important, after age 40, siblings and children of someone with Paget's disease may wish to have an alkaline phosphatase blood test every 2 or 3 years. If the alkaline phosphatase level is above normal, other tests such as a bone-specific alkaline phosphatase test, bone scan, or x-ray can be performed.

Symptoms

Many patients do not know they have Paget's disease because they have a mild case of the disease with no symptoms. Sometimes, symptoms may be confused with those of arthritis or other disorders. In other cases, the diagnosis is made only after complications have developed. Symptoms can include:

  • Bone pain -- the most common symptom. Bone pain can occur in any bone affected by Paget's disease. It often localizes to areas adjacent to the joints.
  • Headaches and hearing loss -- may occur when Paget's disease affects the skull. 
  • Pressure on nerves -- may occur when Paget's disease affects the skull or spine. 
  • Increased head size, bowing of limb, or curvature of spine -- may occur in advanced cases.
  • Hip pain -- may occur when Paget's disease affects the pelvis or thighbone. 
  • Damage to cartilage of joints -- may lead to arthritis.

Diagnosis

Paget's disease may be diagnosed using one or more of the following tests:

  • X-rays -- Pagetic bone has a characteristic appearance on x-rays. 
  • Alkaline phosphatase blood test -- An elevated level of alkaline phosphatase in the blood can be suggestive of Paget's disease. 
  • Bone scans -- Useful in determining the extent and activity of the condition. If a bone scan suggests Paget's disease, the affected bone(s) should be x-rayed to confirm the diagnosis.

Prognosis

The outlook is generally good, particularly if treatment is given before major changes in the affected bones have occurred. Any bone or bones can be affected, but Paget's disease occurs most frequently in the spine, skull, pelvis, thighs, and lower legs. In general, symptoms progress slowly, and the disease does not spread to normal bones. Treatment can control Paget's disease and lessen symptoms but is not a cure. Osteogenic sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, is an extremely rare complication that occurs in less than one percent of all patients.

Other Medical Conditions

  • Arthritis -- Long bones in the leg may bow, distorting alignment and increasing pressure on nearby joints. In addition, Pagetic bone may enlarge, causing joint surfaces to undergo excessive wear and tear. In these cases, pain may be due to a combination of Paget's disease and osteoarthritis.
  • Hearing -- Loss of hearing in one or both ears may occur when Paget's disease affects the skull and the bone that surrounds the inner ear. Treating the Paget's disease may slow or stop hearing loss. Hearing aids may also help. 
  • Heart disease -- In severe Paget's disease, the heart works harder to pump blood to affected bones. This usually does not result in heart failure except in some people who also have hardening of the arteries.
  • Kidney stones -- Kidney stones are somewhat more common in patients with Paget's disease. 
  • Nervous system -- Pagetic bone can cause pressure on the brain, spinal cord, or nerves, and reduced blood flow to the brain and spinal cord. 
  • Sarcoma -- Rarely, Paget's disease is associated with the development of a malignant tumor of bone. When there is a sudden onset or worsening of pain, sarcoma should be considered. 
  • Teeth -- When Paget's disease affects the facial bones, the teeth may become loose. Disturbance in chewing may occur. 
  • Vision--Rarely, when the skull is involved, the nerves to the eye may be affected, causing some loss of vision.
    Paget's disease is not associated with the following disorder:
  • Osteoporosis -- Although Paget's disease and osteoporosis can occur in the same patient, they are completely different disorders. Despite their marked differences, several treatments for Paget's disease are also used to treat osteoporosis.

Treatment

Types of physicians

  • Endocrinologists -- Internists who specialize in hormonal and metabolic disorders.
  • Rheumatologists -- Internists who specialize in joint and muscle disorders.
  • Specialists -- Orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, and otolaryngologists (physicians who specialize in ear, nose, and throat disorders) may be called upon to evaluate specialized symptoms.

Drug therapy

The goal of treatment is to relieve bone pain and prevent the progression of the disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the following treatments for Paget's disease.

Bisphosphonates

Five bisphosphonates are currently available. In general, the most commonly prescribed are the three most potent bisphosphonates: Actonel®, Fosamax® and Aredia®. Didronel® and Skelid® may be appropriate therapies for selected patients but are less commonly used. As a rule, bisphosphonate tablets should be taken with 6-8 oz of tap water on an empty stomach. None of these drugs should be used by people with severe kidney disease.

  • Didronel® (etidronate disodium) -- Tablet; approved regimen is 200-400 mg once daily for 6 months; the higher dose (400 mg) is more commonly used; no food, beverages, or medications for 2 hours before and after taking; course should not exceed 6 months, but repeat courses can be given after rest periods, preferably of 3-6 months duration.
  • Aredia® (pamidronate disodium) -- Intravenous; approved regimen 30 mg infusion over 4 hours on 3 consecutive days; more commonly used regimen 60 mg over 2-4 hours for 2 or more consecutive or non-consecutive days.
  • Fosamax® (alendronate sodium) -- Tablet; 40 mg once daily for 6 months; patients should wait at least 30 minutes after taking before eating any food, drinking anything other than tap water, taking any medication, or lying down (patient may sit).
  • Skelid® (tiludronate disodium) -- Tablet; 400 mg (two 200 mg tablets) once daily for 3 months; may be taken any time of day, as long as there is a period of 2 hours before and after resuming food, beverages, and medications.
  • Actonel® (risedronate sodium) -- Tablet; 30 mg once daily for 2 months; patients should wait at least 30 minutes after taking before eating any food, drinking anything other than tap water, taking any medication, or lying down (patient may sit).
  • Calcitonin
  • Miacalcin® is administered by injection; 50 to 100 units daily or 3 times per week for 6-18 months. Repeat courses can be given after brief rest periods. Miacalcin may be appropriate for certain patients but is seldom used. The nasal spray form of this drug is not approved for the treatment of Paget's disease.

Surgery

Medical therapy prior to surgery helps to decrease bleeding and other complications. Patients who are having surgery should discuss pre-treatment with their physician. There are generally three major complications of Paget's disease for which surgery may be recommended.

  • Fractures -- Surgery may allow fractures to heal in better position.
  • Severe degenerative arthritis -- If disability is severe and medication and physical therapy are no longer helpful, joint replacement of the hips and knees may be considered.
  • Bone deformity -- Cutting and realignment of Pagetic bone (osteotomy) may help painful weight-bearing joints, especially the knees.
    Complications resulting from enlargement of the skull or spine may injure the nervous system. However, most neurologic symptoms, even those that are moderately severe, can be treated with medication and do not require neurosurgery.
Diet and Exercise

In general, patients with Paget's disease should receive 1000-1500 mg of calcium, adequate sunshine, and at least 400 units of vitamin D daily. This is especially important in patients being treated with bisphosphonates. Patients with a history of kidney stones should discuss calcium and vitamin D intake with their physician.
Exercise is very important in maintaining skeletal health, avoiding weight gain, and maintaining joint mobility. Since undue stress on affected bones should be avoided, patients should discuss any exercise program with their physician before beginning.

For more information about Paget's disease, contact:
The Paget Foundation for Paget's Disease of Bone and Related Disorders
120 Wall Street, Suite 1602, New York, NY 10005-4001
Toll-free: 800-23-PAGET
Phone: 212-509-5335
Fax: 212-509-8492
E-Mail: PagetFdn@aol.com
Internet: www.paget.org

Revision Date: 8/2003


The NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases ~ National Resource Center is supported by the
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
with contributions from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute of
Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases,
NIH Office of Research on Women's Health, DHHS Office on Women's Health, and National Institute on Aging. 

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