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What is Osteomyelitis?

Bone infection or osteomyelitis is a serious medical condition that needs immediate medical attention. Infection may occur due to an open fracture or surgery or infection in one area of the body may spread to the bone via the bloodstream.

What Causes Osteomyelitis?

The most common cause of osteomyelitis is Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Other conditions such as diabetes may increase the risk of osteomyelitis.

What are the Symptoms of Osteomyelitis?

The symptoms of osteomyelitis include:

  • Fever, fatigue, and irritability
  • Swelling around your affected joint
  • Nausea
  • Warmth, tenderness, and redness of the affected area
  • Lost range of motion

What are the Risk Factors for Osteomyelitis?

The possible risk factors that may cause osteomyelitis to include:

  • Joint conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Intravenous use of medications
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Surgery involving hip and knee replacements
  • Diabetes
  • Sickle cell disease
  • HIV
  • Injury
  • Poor blood supply

How is Osteomyelitis Diagnosed?

Your doctor physically examines for pain, swelling and discoloration. Lab and diagnostic tests may be ordered by your doctor to determine the extent and exact location of the infection. Other tests include:

  • An X-ray can show the extent of damage to the bone.
  • A blood test, throat swabs, stool analyses, and urine culture may be collected to find out the type of organisms, typically bacteria, causing the infection.
  • A bone scan may be suggested which reveals the metabolic and cellular activity in your bones.
  • An MRI scan or a bone biopsy may be necessary if the bone scan doesn’t provide enough information.

How is Osteomyelitis Treated?

Treatment of osteomyelitis involves the use of antibiotics which are either prescribed orally or intravenously. Antibiotics help control infection and, in some cases, make it possible to avoid the need for surgery. Very serious or chronic infections may be treated by surgery to prevent the infection from spreading further. This involves removal of infected bone and tissue and amputation if needed.

How can Osteomyelitis be Prevented?

You can prevent osteomyelitis by following simple measures including:

  • Discuss with your doctor various ways to prevent infection if you take medications for diabetes.
  • See your doctor if you have any signs of infection for early treatment.
  • Visit your doctor on a regular basis for checkups.
  • Check for any sores or cuts which may lead to infection.
  • Diabetics should visually check their feet daily for any cuts due to diminished sensation.
  • Any open wound needs to be properly treated and bandaged to prevent infection.