The skeletal system allows us humans to enjoy the freedom of movement, posture and relationship with the environment from a mechanical point of view. This structural conglomerate is made up of 206 different parts, a significant figure considering the weight and size of our species.
Thus, the skeleton represents a total of 12% of the weight of the adult individual. In a 75-pound person, this corresponds to 9 kilograms of bone structures. To put that number into perspective, the nerve control center (brain) weighs an average of a pound and a few.
There is no doubt that the skeleton allows our existence as we know it today. At the end and in the head What would become of our species if we couldn’t stand? Unfortunately, there are a number of diseases of the bone system that must be considered throughout the life of the adult individual.
It should be noted that in this space we will focus on purely bone diseases, that is, those that mainly affect bone structures. Pathologies such as osteoarthritis, gout or pseudogout can lead to bone damage, but affect the cartilage structure in its early stages. Here we present to you the main diseases of the bone system purely related to bone tissue.
4 diseases of the skeletal system: our structural basis in danger
First of all, it should be noted that musculoskeletal diseases and disorders are much more common than you initially think. The World Health Organization (WHO) launches a series of interesting figures on the subject:
- Musculoskeletal disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide, with low back pain being the most common type on Earth.
- Between one in three and one in five people suffer from a painful and disabling osteoarticular or muscle disease.
- They represent the highest proportion of persistent painful conditions (excluding carcinogenic processes).
- Up to half of the cases are linked to underlying pathologies, that is, they are multimorbid disorders.
From birth to age 20, the body synthesizes and adds more bone tissue than it breaks down. by death and wear and tear of cells. Over time, the body may not deposit bone as quickly as it is lost, resulting in various bone-related complications. While it is true that the elderly are the age group that suffers the most from this type of pathology, they are not the only ones. Below are the most common diseases of the bone system.
Osteoporosis is the most common type of disease in bones. It occurs when the body breaks down more bone tissue than it can rest, which weakens the bones and promotes their injury and fracture. In Spain alone, this disease is responsible for 500,000 fractures and 800,000 hospital stays per year. In addition, it is estimated that at the age of 79, 40% of women suffer from lumbar osteoporosis.
According to the World Health Organization, this pathology becomes official in the individual when he presents a bone mineral density (BMD) of less than or equal to 2.5 standard deviations below the average bone mass of healthy people 20 years of age. This pathology promotes bone porosity (hence its name), but presents itself asymptomatically until lesions appear.
In addition to age (an essential factor), there are other physical parameters that can promote the development of osteoporosis in the individual, such as bone cancer, certain types of chemotherapy, family history, steroids or prolonged periods of physical inactivity. It should be noted that women have a greater predisposition to this disease, because after menopause there are imbalances in the levels of estrogen, a hormone that helps maintain bone density.
2. Osteogenesis imperfecta
We change the paradigm completely, because as osteoporosis is a disease that responds to a physical deterioration of the individual and occurs relatively frequently, osteogenesis imperfecta it is caused by genetic mutations and is considered a rare disease.
90% of cases of this disease are caused by autosomal dominant mutations and typically affect one in 15,000 newborns. This pathology is widely associated with heterogeneous connective tissue disorder, caused primarily by poor synthesis and deposition of collagen ( essential structural protein). Unfortunately, a person with osteogenesis imperfecta has a 50% chance of passing the causative gene on to their son or daughter.
this pathology this results in variable-spectrum bone fragility, Which can manifest as abnormal bone fractures with no apparent explanation. Just as osteoporosis is the queen of diseases of the bone system, osteogenesis imperfecta is considered an unfortunate exception.
3. Bacterial infections
Not many people know that when it comes to tissues of a more cellular and organic nature (no matter how many minerals they contain and how hard they are), bones can also be affected by microorganisms such as bacteria. This is the case of osteomyelitis, a disease caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus in 90% of infections.
These are pathogenic microorganisms installed in the bone tissue which have generally arrived by the hematogenous route, that is to say through the patient’s bloodstream. Once the bone is infected, the leukocytes enter it with the intention of fighting bacteria, but along the way they release enzymes that eventually corrode the bone tissue.
The pus produced by the infection spreads through the blood vessels that supply the bone, causing abscesses and preventing the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the bone cells. As you can guess, this results in cell death and necrosis of the affected area. Of course, we are faced with a pathology of a very unpleasant nature, which may also require antibiotic treatment for weeks or even months for its difficult elimination.
To finish, in more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the necrotic bone tissue.. This is then filled with a prosthesis or graft, which stimulates healing and recovery of the affected area. Like other severe bacterial infections, the symptoms of bone infections are mainly manifested by fevers, tremors, and discomfort on the part of the patient.
4. Bone cancer
How could it be otherwise, it seems no tissue with cell division eliminates the risk of developing a cancerous tumor. Bones are no different because they contain living cells that can undergo uncontrolled division due to abnormal mutations, leading to the dreaded bone cancer.
Osteosarcoma is the most common variant of this disease and mainly affects young people between the ages of 10 and 19, as only 10% of those affected are over 60 years old. This type of tumor is most often located in the bones of the arms, legs and pelvis.
It should be noted that many types of cancer metastasize to the bones, but that doesn’t mean we have bone cancer as such. A malignant tumor of the breast that has spread to the skeletal system is metastatic breast cancer, not strictly bone cancer.
As we have seen, in this space we have hit all possible sticks. We gave the example of a “natural” bone disease, another genetically hereditary and very strange, a third of infectious origin and the last by a carcinogenic process.
Of course, this highlights the broad spectrum of diseases that can affect the human skeletal system. However, the symptoms are more or less homogeneous in almost all pathologies: there is an easier bone fracture or possible pain and swelling located in the area. affected.
- Bone cancer, cáncer.org. Collected September 8 at https://www.cancer.org/es/cancer/cancer-de-hueso/deteccion-diagnostico-clasificacion-por-etapas/senales-sintomas.html
- Cramer, JA, Gold, DT, Silverman, SL and Lewiecki, EM (2007). A systematic review of the persistence and compliance of bisphosphonates for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis International, 18 (8), 1023-1031.
- Bone Diseases, MedlinePlus.gov. Retrieved September 8, from https://medlineplus.gov/spanish/osteogenesisimperfecta.html
- Gutiérrez-Díez, MP, Molina Gutiérrez, MA, Prieto Tato, L., Parra García, JI, and Bé Sánchez, AM (2013). Osteogenesis imperfecta: new perspectives. Rev Esp Endocrinol Pediatr, 4 (160), 75-85.
- Osteoporosis, cancer.net. Collected September 8 from https://www.cancer.net/es/asimilaci%C3%B3n-con-c%C3%A1ncer/efectos-f%C3%ADsicos-emocionales-y-sociales-del-c% C3 % A1ncer / treatment-of-side-effects-f% C3% ADsicos / osteoporosis
- Musculoskeletal disorders, World Health Organization (WHO). Collected September 8 at https://www.who.int/es/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/musculoskeletal-conditions#:~:text=Los%20trastornos%20de%20este%20tipo,sist%C3% A9micas% 2C% 20como% 20La% 20artritis% 20reumatoide.