What is DISH Disease?

Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH)*

A rare skeletal disorder characterized by unusual, new bone formation. The new bone forms most often where ligaments and tendons (connective tissues that connect bones) joint bone (entheseal area), but there is also a generalized hardening of bones and bone overgrowth (hyperostosis).

DISH can affect almost any part of the skeleton

Although these changes are most often seen in the spine, DISH can affect almost any part of the skeleton, including hips, knees, ankles, feet, shoulders, hands, and ribs. Many people with DISH do not have any symptoms, but in some cases the symptoms get worse over time (progressive) and become quite severe. The most common symptoms are pain, stiffness and reduced range of motion of the neck or upper back.

DISH is caused by the build up of calcium salts in the tendons and ligaments (calcification) and abnormal new bone growth

DISH is caused by the build up of calcium salts in the tendons and ligaments (calcification) and abnormal new bone growth (ossification) but the reason this happens is unknown.  Researchers believe some combination of mechanical, genetic, environmental, and metabolic factors are involved. DISH is more common in people over 50 and in men. While there is no known cure for DISH, there are treatments that can help control symptoms.

*Description used with permission from the Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center


Although diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) does not cause symptoms for everyone, many people DO experience symptoms that can be quite severe and become worse over time (progressive). (This is very important as most doctors say DISH does not cause symptoms or pain......this is changing, but slowly.) The upper part of the back and neck (thoracic and cervical spine) are the most commonly affected areas of the body; however, people with DISH may also have symptoms in other places like the feet, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, hands, ribs and even the head.

Symptoms vary depending on the areas of the skeleton affected, but may include:



Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)

Sleep Apnea

Tingling, numbness, and/or
weakness in the legs

Spinal fractures and increased risk of breaking other affected bones

Compressed or pinched nerves (radiculopathy)

Difficulty breathing possibly due to airway obstruction

Compressed spinal cord (myelopathy) which can lead to partial or complete paralysis of the legs and/or arms (paraparesis, tetraparesis)

Decreased lung capacity
(if DISH affects the ribs)