Osteomyelitis – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

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Osteomyelitis is a serious, yet rare condition that infects your bones in a variety of ways. For example, if you have an infection in one part of your body, it may travel through your bloodstream and infect your bones. Open fractures and surgery may also leave your bones exposed to osteomyelitis.

Causes of Osteomyelitis 

The condition itself is rare and only infects about two out of every 10,000 people. Both children and adults are vulnerable to osteomyelitis, and there are many causes behind the condition. However, one of the most common culprits behind the condition is Staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococcus aureus is a certain type of staph bacteria that causes the condition. Additionally, a variety of chronic conditions may also result in osteomyelitis, including diabetes.

Other conditions that may leave you vulnerable to the condition include the following:

  • Alcoholism
  • Sickle cell disease
  • HIV or AIDS
  • Poor blood supply
  • Intravenous drug use
  • Recent injury
  • Long-term use of steroids
  • Hemodialysis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Bone surgery

Symptoms of Osteomyelitis

If you have osteomyelitis, chances are you will begin experiencing symptoms shortly after the infection sets in. The condition develops quickly and may include the following symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Tenderness or redness near the infection site
  • Swelling near the infected bone
  • Decreased range of motion

Diagnosis of Osteomyelitis

If you think you may have osteomyelitis, schedule an appointment with your doctor. During your appointment, your doctor will conduct a thorough medical examination and run through your medical history. He or she may also ask questions about recent infections, family medical history, and medication usage.

During the physical exam, your doctor will check for areas of swelling, tenderness, redness, open sores, and pain points. From there, he or she may order tests to further help with diagnosis. Some tests they may order include:

All of these tests help give your doctor a better idea of what bones may have osteomyelitis so that a proper treatment plan can be developed. In some cases, your doctor may also recommend a bone biopsy so he or she can establish what type of bacteria is involved. Knowing this is important when determining which antibiotic and other medications to prescribe you.

Treatment of Osteomyelitis

If you’re diagnosed with osteomyelitis, your doctor will focus primarily on stopping the infection before it spreads to other parts of your body. In most cases, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to bring the infection under control. However, in more severe cases, you may have to undergo surgery to remove the infected bone or tissue. In rare cases, amputation may even be necessary.

Prognosis of Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is one of those conditions you don’t want to mess with. If you have the condition or think you may have it, contact your medical provider. The sooner your doctor diagnoses and treats the condition, the better chance you’ll have of making a full recovery. Osteomyelitis is a condition that develops rapidly and may infect other parts of your body if left untreated.