The human body is made up of more than 200 bones and hundreds of supporting joints and soft tissues. All of these structures, especially ones that are part of the spine, can be affected by various diseases. Some are genetic and not entirely preventable, while others can be prevented by paying attention to things like diet and exercise habits. The trusted Los Angeles spine surgeons at The Spine Institute have put together a list of six common bone-related diseases you should know about.
The most common bone disorder in the United States, osteoporosis is characterized by accelerated bone loss that occurs faster than bone growth or regeneration. More likely to affect women past the age of menopause and seniors 70 and over, osteoporosis increases the risk of having broken bones and fractured joints. The disease can also play a role in issues with:
- Back pain due to collapsed or fractured vertebrae
- A progressive loss of height over time
- Issues related to posture as spinal alignment is affected
- Increased occurrences of spine or joint fractures
Note: Since nearly 70 percent of fractures affecting the spine are painless, it’s important to have a bone density test if you are at risk of developing osteoporosis.
Affecting nearly 30 million people in the United States, osteoarthritis causes connective bone tissue called cartilage to prematurely wear away. This places added wear and tear on joints, which can result in inflammation and nerve irritation and lead to radiating nerve pain (symptoms felt elsewhere) that includes numbness and tingling sensations. Increased friction as cartilage wears away can also affect the bones and joints of the spine enough to contribute to issues with:
- Spine weakness
- Bone spurs
- Spinal joint fractures
- Intervertebral disc issues such as herniation
3. Paget’s Disease
Ranking just behind osteoporosis as the most common bone disorder in the U.S., Paget’s disease affects the recycling process of bones. The result is too much bone growth, which could increase the risk of nerve irritation and fractures from the added bone weight and size. Bones in the skull, legs, and pelvis may also be affected. More likely to occur in men, Paget’s disease may also contribute to:
- Osteoarthritis because of added bone stress
- Bone deformities
- Bone cancer*
*Occurs in less than 1 percent of patients with Paget’s.
Referred to as the “soft bone disease” and rickets when it occurs during childhood, osteomalacia is associated with a deficiency of vitamin D or calcium, two of the most important nutrients needed to keep bones strong. Softened bones can contribute to bowing during the growth years in children and adolescents. Adults with osteomalacia may experience fractures easier.
5. Osteogenesis Imperfecta
Consisting of a group of eight rare genetic disorders, osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) can cause fractures (broken bones) to develop easily, often with no clear cause or reason. OI also affects the production of collagen, which binds bone tissues together. The severity of the condition is based on a classification system. The most common type of OI is the mildest form of the condition, which could result in:
- Loose joints and muscle weakness
- Increased odds of abnormal spinal curvature
- Susceptibility to fractures, especially prior to puberty
6. Multiple Myeloma (Plasma Cell Cancer)
White blood cells control issues with foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. With a type of cancer known as multiple myeloma, abnormal cells develop in bone marrow and affect essential white blood cells. The resulting irregular cells may then multiply enough to cause tumors in the spine. The backbone is also a common location for secondary tumors since it’s close to other areas where tumors can initially grow, such as the lungs and kidneys. Symptoms associated with plasma cell cancer include:
- Weakened bones
- General fatigue
- Increased instances of infection
When bone diseases seriously impact the back or neck and cause chronic pain, surgery may be necessary to correct the issue. At The Spine Institute, we specialize in a wide array of minimally invasive procedures, from spinal fusion to Coflex surgery. Los Angeles residents who would like to schedule an in-person evaluation can call 310-828-7757.