Osteomyelitis is the medical term for a bone infection. It can occur anywhere in the body but commonly affects the foot. Infections can reach the bone through trauma or spread to the bone via the bloodstream.

Osteomyelitis requires aggressive treatment to prevent the spread of infection. Without rapid intervention, osteomyelitis may become chronic and eventually lead to the death of bone and tissue.

Causes of osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis can develop from a fungal, bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection. There are several types of osteomyelitis that are classified based on how the infection begins and where it occurs in the body.

Osteomyelitis can develop from the following sources: 

  • Infections from injury or trauma - Bone infections can develop after an injury like a fracture or from an open wound. Infection can also develop following surgery. 
  • Infections in people with poor circulation or compromised immune systems - Osteomyelitis can develop quickly in people with diabetes and other medical conditions that inhibit the body's response to infection. 
  • Infections that spread via the bloodstream - Infections may begin elsewhere in the body and travel to a specific site of bone via the bloodstream.

Osteomyelitis symptoms

Osteomyelitis symptoms are varied. In many cases, the symptoms are similar to other conditions, making osteomyelitis difficult to diagnose.

Signs and symptoms of osteomyelitis include: 

  • Drainage of pus near an open wound. 
  • Fatigue and lethargy. 
  • Pain in the infected area. 
  • Sudden fever. 
  • Sweating, chills, and nausea. 
  • Swelling, warmth, and redness near the infected area.

When osteomyelitis occurs after an injury like a broken bone, it is easy to attribute symptoms to the initial injury, rather than a growing infection. That is why it is important to see a physician as soon as possible if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms.

Osteomyelitis treatment

Osteomyelitis is a serious condition that requires aggressive, prompt intervention. The goal of osteomyelitis treatment is to eliminate the underlying infection, save the infected bone and tissue, and prevent spreading the infection to other areas in the body.

Osteomyelitis is treated with antibiotics and surgery. Some patients with acute osteomyelitis can be treated with antibiotics and monitored as outpatients. Others may require hospital admittance. Surgery is often necessary to remove dead bone and prevent further spread of the infection.

Surgical osteomyelitis treatment may include the following: 

  • Bone and tissue grafts. 
  • Opening up and draining pus from the infected area. 
  • Removal of dead bone and tissue. 
  • Removal of foreign objects like surgical screws and plates.

If you are at a higher risk of developing osteomyelitis, make sure to call your physician as soon as possible if any symptoms of infection arise.


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