Paget's disease is a medical condition that can cause deformed or enlarged bones to form in certain parts of the skeleton. Although it can affect any bone, the most commonly affected bones are the skull, the spine, the pelvis, the lower legs, and the thighs. This chronic disorder of the skeletal system can also cause the bone to break down, which can make the affected bones dense, yet fragile.
The exact cause of Paget's disease is unknown. Many researchers believe it may be caused by a slow progressing infection, which is in the body for many years before symptoms begin to develop. There also appears to be a genetic link, though the fact that disease appears to run in families may be due to exposure to the virus that causes the disease.
There are a number of symptoms associated with Paget's disease, though many patients do not recognize them because they are so mild. In addition, symptoms of Paget's disease are commonly confused with those of arthritis. The most common symptoms of Paget's disease include bone pain or a warm feeling in the bone for no apparent reason. The pain is usually felt in the area of the bone near the joints.
A person with Paget's disease may also notice that his or her glasses or hats no longer fit as well, or that one leg begins to bow. This is caused by deformities in the bones or by spine curvatures. In advanced Paget's disease, the sufferer’s bones may also become weakened or enlarged. As a result, the person may experience fractures in the affected bones.
When Paget's disease affects specific areas of the body, it can also lead to other symptoms. Paget's disease that affects the spine, for example, may cause leg and back pain. When Paget's disease affects the skull, the person may also experience headaches or hearing loss, as the inner ear is deformed. Although Paget’s disease is not the same as arthritis, it can lead to arthritic symptoms. Joint pain is common, as the cartilage in the joints near the affected bones becomes damaged.
If Paget's disease is caught before complications occur, it is usually treatable. Treatment can slow the progression of the disease, though it cannot be cured. If left untreated, Paget's disease can lead to permanent damage.