Types of Bone Diseases

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this lesson, you will learn that your bones can suffer from a wide variety of diseases. They can be infective in nature, cancerous, or even genetic.

Bones Diseases

When you think of a problem with the bones, you probably immediately think of a fracture, otherwise known as a broken bone. However, our bones, despite their immense strength, are actually subject to many other types of problems. This lesson will go over three examples of them in three very different categories, that of infection, cancer, and genetic disease.


A bone infection is technically called osteomyelitis. This word comes from osteo-, which means bone, myelo-, which in this case refers to bone marrow, and -itis, which means inflammation. You might be wondering, how in the world can the bone get infected?

Well, there's actually more than one way. One scenario is where you are playing a game in a field and all of a sudden slip and fall, only to smash your leg against something sharp. That sharp object, say like the corner of a bench, will penetrate deep into your leg and introduce bacteria into the surrounding tissue. The infection can then spread from that local tissue and to the nearby bone.

Another way a person can get a bone infection is when they have surgery performed on the bone or on the surrounding tissue. If an infectious organism is introduced into the surgery site or isn't properly killed with antibiotics given as part of the surgery, then a bone infection can set it.

Finally, the infection can spread from a very different part of the body, such as from the lungs, via the bloodstream and then to the bone. This is particularly dangerous for children since their growing bones have an extensive blood supply when compared to adults.

The most common cause of osteomyelitis is a very specific type of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus. This type of bacterium is more famous for causing skin infections, and being the cause of MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a strain of this type of bacteria that's resistant to many antibiotics, which are drugs that kill bacteria.


Bone diseases aren't limited to infections, of course. Cancer can also affect bony tissue. One type of cancer that affects bony tissue is called an osteosarcoma. Again, osteo- means bone and -sarcoma refers to a cancer of connective tissue, like bone. An osteosarcoma is actually the most common type of bone cancer in children.

Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) cells

Normally, this specific form of cancer affects the long bones of the body. These are the bones that are longer than they are wide. For example, the femur in your upper leg and the radius in your lower arm are two types of long bones. Osteosarcoma can cause everything from pain to fractures of the bone. People with this type of cancer will likely need surgery to remove the cancer, as well as chemotherapy to kill any cells that weren't removed during the surgery.

Osteogenesis Imperfecta

Besides infectious causes and cancerous ones, inherited genetic problems can also cause bone disease. One of these is known as osteogenesis imperfecta, a group of genetic disorders of the bones. The term 'osteogenesis imperfecta' literally translates as imperfect bone formation. That's because imperfecta means imperfect, osteo- means bone, and -genesis refers to formation.

People with any one of the forms of osteogenesis imperfecta have bones that can break really easily, sometimes without an apparent underlying cause. These fractures can even occur before the person is born. Mutations in the COL1A1, COL1A2, CRTAP, and P3H1 genes have been implicated in osteogenesis imperfecta, although mutations in the COL1A1 and COL1A2 genes are the ones that are by far the most responsible for cases of osteogenesis imperfecta.

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