What is Osteopoikilosis?

Mary McMahon

Osteopoikilosis is a benign genetic condition characterized by white spots which can be identified on the bone in x-rays and other medical imaging studies. No treatment is required for this condition unless it causes pain, in which case a person is usually prescribed painkillers. Sometimes, the condition is associated with other genetic conditions which may be less benign, and a doctor may recommend testing and screening if there is a concern that there is more going on with the patient than just the osteopoikilosis.

The pelvis is a common area for lesions associated with osteopoikilosis to occur.
The pelvis is a common area for lesions associated with osteopoikilosis to occur.

This condition is one of a family of conditions known as sclerosing bone dysplasias. In people with osteopoikilosis, small disc shaped to ovoid white lesions show up on the bones, especially on the ends of the long bones. The area around the pelvis is a classic location for the lesions. Lesions are often identified before the age of twenty, and may be an incidental finding encountered while working up a patient for another medical problem. If someone has no reason to be x-rayed while young, osteopoikilosis may not be identified until later in life.

A family history of osteopoikilosis doesn't necessarily mean it'll be passed to the next generation.
A family history of osteopoikilosis doesn't necessarily mean it'll be passed to the next generation.

Some sclerosing bone dysplasias are dangerous, or are associated with other genetic issues. For this reason, when lesions which are suspected to be osteopoikilosis are identified, the doctor may recommend further workup to confirm the diagnosis. Once confirmed, the condition requires no special attention or treatment, although patients may want to make a note of it when they are x-rayed or tested later in life so that other doctors are aware of the situation.

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People with osteopoikilosis do not appear to be at greater risk of fractures and other problems with the bones, although the condition is a bone disorder. In patients with a cluster of genetic conditions include this sclerosing bone dysplasia, these conditions may cause medical issues which can vary in character, depending on the conditions involved. People with a family history of osteopoikilosis should not necessarily need to be worried about passing it on to their children because it is a benign genetic variation, although they may want to consider genetic testing to check for signs of conditions which are sometimes associated with osteopoikilosis.

This condition is relatively rare, and can be an unusual radiological finding. If a radiologist has not seen very many cases, she or he may recommend that the films be reviewed by a practitioner with more experience to confirm the diagnosis. Patients may also be referred to a bone specialist for additional screening and counseling.

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Discussion Comments


I was told I had osteopikilosis after I had breast cancer, they gave me a ct scan and i was told I had cancer spread to my bones. Wasn't until they gave me an MRI scan they found out they made a mistake with diagnosis of cancer. Problem I have is my pelvis and hips hurt quite a lot especially when I have been on my feet a while. I was told there are no symptoms so why do I ache a lot?

Have googled a lot on this subject but doesn't seem to be much out there. I live in UK. The doctors I have spoken to don't know much about it.


I am 19 years old. Since I was 16, I have been feeling an unusual pain in my lower back which later developed in the whole part of my body. I have been diagnosed with Osteopoikilosis, I don't know what to do. As an athletic male I feel very depressed sometimes because my doctors had told me that I can't do any sports, so the only thing I can do now is ride bicycles and swim. I want to know if this can develop in some kind of bone cancer. Also, I have pictures of my x-rays. Thank you!


I have this rare bone disorder, I am male, 45 years old and only found out a few years ago when I was getting shoulder pain and they thought it was frozen shoulder. They did an X-ray and found my bones had an unusual appearance, honeycomb appearance. At first they thought the worst -- cancer -- but after a specialist took a look he knew what it was and diagnosed Osteopoikilosis.

I get extreme pain all over my body now, and it just seems to be getting worse. I can't walk far without it hurting so much.


@JimmyT: I'm a physician; I'm curious to hear a little more about your case. I wonder whether you're signed up to receive updates on posts. If so, I hope to hear from you soon!


@stl156 - You're right about the testing process. I was actually diagnosed with osteopoikilosis when I was about 15 and had to get X-rays after I broke my arm. The doctors noted it, and suggested I get some of the extra tests done to make sure it wasn't something more serious. Turns out there was nothing more.

I've moved a few times over the years, and now when I get an X-ray, I always make sure to mention it beforehand, otherwise it starts the whole process over again. I'm not sure about the statistics, but I have read that osteopoikilosis is actually one of the rare dominant gene conditions, so anyone who has it will pass it on to their kids.


@jcraig - A bone lesion is analogous to a skin lesion. Just a place where the tissue has been torn somehow. There are a lot of different types of bone lesions caused by many different things.

I think the reason osteopoikilosis would be taken so seriously even though it is a benign disease is because bone lesions can be associated with cancerous tumors, even though a lot of bone tumors are not cancerous.

From reading the article, it sounds like the condition would be genetic, and not acquired. I did find myself wondering how many people have osteopoikilosis. How common is it?


@jcraig - I was wondering a lot of the same things. Is there a reason that the bone lesions tend to show up more often on long bones than other places?

Also, what exactly causes osteopoikilosis or any type of sclerosing bone dysplasia? Is it a certain recessive gene that is passed down from the parents, or can it be something that is acquired after you are born?

Finally, what are some examples of the more serious conditions that could be associated with osteopoikilosis? I assume it could be things that are associated with the same genes that cause the condition.


What does the article mean when it says there is a lesion on the bone? I've heard of skin lesions, but I didn't know they could be other places in the body.

When someone is possibly identified as having osteopoikilosis or another sclerosing bone dysplasia, what are the additional tests they might need to do to make sure that there is nothing more serious going on?

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