Paget’s disease is an osteolytic disease that causes the bone to develop too fast. According to the National Institute of Health, it “is the second most common bone disease after osteoporosis.”
The exact cause of the disease is still being studied, but genetic factors are suspected to play a significant role as the disease has been linked to several genes. It also appears to largely in people over the age of 55. However, there have been rare instances when presented in younger individuals.
During an excavation of Norton Priory, 130 skeletons were recovered. The church was used for burial from the 13th- 15th centuries. Of those 130, six of them showed evidence of Paget’s, which is roughly a 19% rate of occurrence. This is quite high. All six were male and over the age of 45.
Sir James Paget was a British surgeon who first recorded it and believed it was the product of chronic inflammation. In his article, Paget noted that his patient, Mr. Stanley, was in pretty good health when he saw him in 1856. However, he walked “stiffly” (38). When he saw Mr. Stanley three years later, he noted that his “left tibia had become larger, and had a well-marked anterior curve” (38).
We now understand that Mr. Stanley was developing Paget’s.
Osteoblasts, osteocytes, and osteoclasts are responsible for producing and maintaining our bones throughout our lifetime. Our bones are always doing their thing- helping us grow, strengthen, and heal. New bone tissue replaces old bone tissue regularly. If something disrupts the process of laying down and maintaining bone, this could be bad.
Paget’s disease is a disorder that affects the bone remodeling process. The bones that are affected will begin producing new bone faster than it should, and the new bone is usually not quality. The bones will begin to bow or bend, compress, fracture, and misshapen. Essentially, it is increased bone growth and irregular bone remodeling.
This image shows an individual’s lower leg that has been affected by Paget’s. The extreme bowing of the tibia is being caused by the pressure of supporting the body on weaker, softened bones. The bone is also enlarged, which is one of the early symptoms. However, it can take months or years to diagnose.
Paget’s can also impact the craniofacial bones, causing Leontiasis Ossea, or Lion Face Syndrome. The overgrowth of bone around the skull can result in hearing and sight loss, headaches, and other impairments.
The skull below shows bone overgrowth of the frontal, maxillary, mandibular, and zygomatic regions of the face, which would have created a lion-like appearance.