Skeletal Diseases: Types & Characteristics

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Although your skeleton seems solid as a rock, it is not immune to problems. The skeleton is a living part of your body, and like any other part, it is susceptible to infections as well as nutritional, genetic, and cancerous disorders.

Skeletal Diseases

The framework of your home is what keeps it upright and solid. But it can rot away. It can be ruined by termites as well. It can also fracture under its own weight. There are many ways in which it can be destroyed and, thus, put the entire home at risk.

The same goes for your skeleton. It serves as the framework for your entire body. It can fracture. It can be infected with all sorts of agents. It can even, in a manner of speaking, rot away.

There are many diseases that affect the skeleton. This lesson gives you an overview of some of these diseases as well as some characteristics of each.

Infectious & Nutritional

Your home's framework can be infested with termites. That's not good. An infestation of termites causes all sorts of structural problems. Similarly, your bones can be infested. Or, to put it in medical terminology, infected. Osteomyelitis is the inflammation of the bone as a result of an infectious organism. Some characteristics of osteomyelitis include:

  • Pain, redness, warmth, and swelling of the area around the site of infection.
  • A fever as a result of the infection.
  • In rare cases, the bone will be so destroyed by the infectious process that it will fracture.

Another possible skeletal disorder stems from a nutritional problem. A historically famous example is called rickets. Rickets is a condition in children that arises from a serious vitamin D deficiency. It's characteristics include:

  • Bowing of the legs
  • A pigeon chest
  • Stunted growth

Another example of a condition that involves a nutritional component, although it is typically mainly hormonal in nature, is osteoporosis. This condition causes the bones to become fragile. A deficiency in vitamin D and/or calcium can be partly at fault as well. In this condition, bones become so weak that even a minor fall, which wouldn't cause any problem in a healthy person, can cause a person's leg, hip, or wrist to break easily.

Genetic & Cancerous

Genetic skeletal disorders can lead to stunted growth. One of them is called achondroplasia, a genetic disorder that results in short stature. The term achondroplasia comes to us from 'a-', meaning without, '-chondro-', referring to cartilage, and '-plasia', referring to growth. So it literally translates to 'without the growth of cartilage.' However, this term is misleading in that this is not one of the characteristics of this disease. In achondroplasia, a person will form cartilage but it will not convert it to solid bone. This is one reason why people with this disorder are of a short stature. Some other characteristics of this disorder include:

  • Short arms, legs, and fingers
  • An abnormally large head
  • A prominent forehead

There are also cancerous skeletal diseases such as osteosarcoma, the most common kind of malignant bone tumor. 'Osteo-' means bone and '-sarcoma' refers to a class of cancers derived from connective tissue, which includes bone. Osteosarcoma commonly affects the thigh bone (femur), shin bone (tibia), and the upper arm bone (humerus). Characteristics of osteosarcoma include:

  • Bone pain
  • Fractures
  • Death from the spread of cancer to the lungs

Another example of a type of cancer tied to the bone, specifically the bone marrow, is leukemia. This type of cancer mainly involves the formation of abnormal and abnormal quantities of white blood cells, which are normally involved in defending your body against outside invaders like bacteria. As a result, people with leukemia are susceptible to infection. They may also have symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, nose bleeds, and bone pain.

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