Symptoms of Degenerative Bone Disease

Close-up of a doctor reviewing an x-ray film
Doctor pointing to an x-ray (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

The most common, widespread degenerative bone condition is osteoporosis, which occurs when bones become weak due to low levels of minerals. It is called the “silent” disease because no symptoms exist in early stages. This disease affects women four times more often than men. Paget’s disease, which produces enlarged and misshapen bones due to a malfunction of the bone renewal-remodeling process, can lead to osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage is damaged in joints, which leaves unprotected bone articulation.

Osteoporosis Symptoms

The American Academy of Rheumatology (AAR) indicates that approximately 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, of which, 8 million are women. Osteoporosis progresses without notice, and in women, bone loss becomes increasingly prevalent after menopause. Typically, since no symptoms occur, many do not know they have the disease until a bone breaks, which then leads to its diagnosis. The most frequent fractures due to osteoporosis are fractures of the wrist, hip, and spine (vertebrae). Vague pain complaints, such as an aching back may be dismissed before fractures occur.

Paget’s Symptoms

Paget’s disease usually is localized, that is, it typically affects one or a few bones in contrast to the widespread process of osteoporosis. Symptoms may include pain in the affected bone(s), especially at night; fractures and distorted bone shape; a bone deformity, such as bowlegs; nerve compression due to affected, enlarged bones; joint damage that with time may lead to osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis Symptoms

Cartilage is resistant and slippery tissue that covers bone endings for smooth movement as two bones create a joint. When cartilage breaks down, the smooth action in the joint ceases and the bones, now with no cushion for movement, are forced to rub together. Symptoms typically include joint pain with swelling, and range of motion in the affected joint may be decreased severely. Additionally,over time, osteophytes or small bone spurs (deposits) may form on the perimeter of the joint.

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