Search:
 
 
   
Expand Window Full Screen
Osteomyelitis

On this page:

Definition

Osteomyelitis is infection of the bone that is most often caused by Staphylococcus aureus. Osteomyelitis usually affects the long bones of the arms and legs.

Return to top Return to top

Causes

  • Direct infection due to trauma or a puncture wound. Bacteria that normally live on our skin like Staphylococcus aureus, can enter through the puncture wound deep into the bottom of the foot. Once in the deep tissues of the foot, bacteria can easily spread to bone.
  • Infection through the bloodstream from other infected areas in the body.
  • Following fungal infection, tuberculosis or bacterial pneumonia.

Return to top Return to top

Symptoms

  • Constant bone or joint pain that worsens with movement and does not respond to pain medications or rest
  • The area may be tender to touch or the joint may be painful when bending.
  • Limitation of movement in a joint.
  • Overlying skin red, warm and tender.
  • Open skin sores over the infected bone.
  • Weight loss.
  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Irritability.
  • Fever and chills.

Return to top Return to top

Implications

Chronic osteomyelitis that is left untreated can cause permanent none damage and bone necrosis. This may result in limitation of function and movement of the affected limb. Osteomyelitis of the vertebral column can damage the spinal nerves and is a potentially serious condition. Another dangerous complication of osteomyelitis is septic arthritis or osteoarthritis. Problems from this condition include a permanent movement limitation, difficulty walking and shortening of the afflicted limb, due to a reduction in space between bones at the joint.

Return to top Return to top

What You Can Do

  • Intravenous antibiotics are given initially to fight the infection.
  • Patient is switched to oral antibiotics once the condition improves.
  • Pain medication like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID's) such as aspirin, tylenol or ibuprofen can help relieve the pain.
  • In severe cases, a cavity gets filled with pus in the bone. The physician performs a surgical drainage and debridement of the dead and diseased tissue in the infected cavity. This facilitates the bone to heal properly.
  • If you are a smoker, quit smoking as it diminishes the blood flow to the infected area and makes it difficult for the body to fight the infection causing bacteria.
  • Take care of your feet, nails and skin particularly if you have diabetes or circulation problems.
  • Take immunosuppressive medications under your physicians strict supervision as these drugs suppress the body's immune system and diminishes it's ability to fight infections.
  • Prevention
    • Practice good personal hygiene.
    • If there is a cut or a deep wound, clean it with soap and water holding it under running water for at least 5 minutes.
    • Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment or cream and cover it with a gauze or adhesive dressing.
    • Hygiene is especially important for people with diabetes who self administer insulin or for teens who use intravenous drugs like steroids.

Return to top Return to top

Osteomyelitis