Osteomyelitis symptoms

Osteomyelitis sounds pretty serious, and in fact, back in the day, it was seen as an incurable condition; fortunately, with all the technology available today, the condition can be successfully treated. While the word is very large and hard to say, it is only a medical term for an infection in the bone. There are two ways an infection like this can occur: infections can reach a bone by traveling through the bloodstream or spreading from neighboring tissue, or they can develop in the actual bone if an injury exposes the bone to germs. The infection can be due to a bacteria or fungi. Any age group can get a bone infection—in adults they occur more commonly in the spinal column; in children they appear more often in the legs and upper arm; and in those with diabetes, osteomyelitis can develop in the feet if the person has ulcers in that area. Treatment is usually necessary, but as mentioned previously, most cases can be successfully treated. However, recognizing the symptoms is the only way to ensure that a complication won’t result from an infection of the bone.

How the Infection Happens
When any part of a bone becomes infected, the soft part of the bone (called the bone marrow) becomes swollen. This swollenness can become so much that it starts to press against the outer wall of the bone; as a result, blood vessels in the bone marrow may become compressed, cutting off the blood supply to the bone. As with anything else that loses its source of energy and nutrients, the bone begins to die, or at least the part that is infected.

Symptoms of Osteomyelitis
Symptoms associated with osteomyelitis depend on which bone is infected. However, fatigue can be a symptom in any case. If it is in the arm or leg bones, symptoms can include: pain in the part of the bone that is infected, fever, weight loss, and painful movements. If the infection is in the spine, the back will be tender to the touch and the person will experience seemingly never-ending back pain; in this case, there is usually no fever, nor is there any way to relieve the pain, even temporarily. If the infection is a result of an infection in a nearby tissue, the newly infected site swells and becomes very painful, regardless of the location.

It is necessary to diagnose osteomyelitis as soon as possible, because if it is not treated promptly, a more serious condition called chronic osteomyelitis can develop. When the infection reaches this stage, it becomes very difficult to get rid of. Chronic osteomyelitis can go symptomless for months and even years, it is associated with persistent pain and recurring infections, and drainage of pus often appears, breaking through the skin’s surface. Doctors can perform different tests after drawing blood to determine if osteomyelitis could be a possibility. An X-ray, CT scan, or MRI can confirm the diagnosis even further. More times than not, the bone will appear abnormal on these tests. To determine the actual bacteria, a doctor will take samples of the blood, pus, bone, and joint fluid surrounding the bone.

In children and adults when the condition is caught early on, antibiotics are the most effective treatment. The length of time varies, depending on the severity of the infection; the regimen can last 4 weeks to a couple months. If the cause of the infection is bacterial, a broad-spectrum antibiotic will be used; if the cause is fungal, an antifungal drug will be used. Those who have an infection in the vertebrae of the spine may be required to stay on bed rest or wear a back brace. Surgical removal is only necessary if the infection came from surrounding tissue; removal of the dead tissue and bone is done, in addition to the replacement of these things with healthy tissue, bone, and muscle.

Last updated on Aug 28th, 2010 and filed under Musculoskeletal Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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