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Osteomyelitis – Symptoms, Treatment, Pictures

Osteomyelitis or OM refers to the infection of the bone caused by fungi or bacteria. Some people develop the condition after sustaining a bone injury. Affected individuals often complain about tenderness and pain on the affected area and feel very sick. The disorder has been found to affect people from all ages and gender.

Treatment for osteomyelitis provides relief by reducing the associated symptoms and preventing further complications. Doctors plan the treatment based on the specific needs of each patient, but more importantly, its aim is to get rid of the infection to prevent further damage to the bone. Treatment may involve IV medication and surgery.

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Cause of Osteomyelitis

With OM, the bone sustains an infection caused by the staphylococcus bacteria. This type of bacteria can be found on people’s skin and nose. Bone infection is rarely caused by fungi. When the bone incurs an infection, the bone marrow will start to swell and then press against the bone’s external wall and blood vessels. The compression of the blood vessels will cut down the blood flow to the bone and this will eventually result to bone death.

The bone can sustain infection by means of:

  • Bloodstream

Bacteria from an existing infection, such as UTI and pneumonia, can travel and spread to the bone through the bloodstream. Children’s softer growth plates are vulnerable to infection, though it also occurs on the long arm and leg bones of adults.

  • Open wounds

Bacteria could get into the weaker part of the bone through an open wound.

  • Bone injury

Bone injury is another means for bone infection to take place. Infection may occur after the bone suffers severe injury or during surgical procedures such as repairing fractured bones or replacing joints.

Risk factors of Osteomyelitis

Certain circumstances increase the likelihood of developing OM. These conditions either impair proper blood circulation or provide a gateway for bacteria to get into the bone. Among these conditions are:

  • Diabetes
  • HIV virus and AIDS
  • Sickle Cell Disease
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease
  • Prolonged use of steroids or IV street drugs
  • Prolonged IV tubing or urinary catheters
  • Hemodialysis
  • Orthopedic surgery
  • Bone injury

Studies showed that OM affects around 2 in 10,000 people. Anyone can get OM but it has been found to occur more frequently in children than adults and affects more boys than girls. Moreover, around 40% of the sufferers have diabetes. OM will also likely occur after an individual sustains a foot puncture.

Symptoms of Osteomyelitis

People with OM exhibit different unpleasant symptoms. However, a few do not experience any symptoms at all due to the absence of an injury. The only remarkable symptom of bone infection is intense pain on the affected area. Moreover, it should be noted that children and adults exhibit differing symptoms. Adults tend to develop more severe symptoms than children.

Children suffering from OM have complains about:

  • Short-term fevers
  • Severe pain on the affected area
  • Swelling and redness on the affected area
  • Irritability

Adults suffering from OM will experience:

  • Tender lump on the affected area
  • Pain and redness on the overlying skin
  • High fever
  • General feeling of being unwell
  • Pus-like drainage from the affected area

Prompt medical attention is required for cases of osteomyelitis because it could aggravate and the abscess will steal the blood supply to the bones and sufferers will live with OM for years. Besides, OM may eventually result in complications in which the infection could spread to the tissues around the affected bone or to the bloodstream. It could also limit the functionality of the joint and even require amputation.

Diagnosis of Osteomyelitis

OM requires careful diagnosis, so patients should expect to go through a variety of diagnostic tests to accurately identify the root cause of the infection. Among these tests include:

  • Blood tests

Blood tests provide useful clues in identifying the offending bacteria. This will also help doctors decide which tests are further needed to confirm OM diagnosis.

  • X-ray

An X-ray exam will reveal the bone damage. However, it is not useful if OM has been around for quite a while.

  • MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging provides very important information about the tissues and bones which help doctors diagnose the condition.

  • CT scan

The doctor may also request for CT scan to get a detailed view of the patient’s internal structures.

  • Bone biopsy

This is often done not only in diagnosing the condition properly but in choosing the appropriate medication that will get rid of the infection effectively.

The chances of recovery are often good for OM patients. Still, this highly depends on the kind of infection, severity of the infection and overall health of the patient.

Osteomyelitis treatment

The treatment for osteomyelitis aims to avoid the dreadful consequences of bone infection.  It may involve the use of antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria responsible for the infection. Some patients may need surgery to get rid of the dead bone tissues and restore proper blood flow.

Osteomyelitis pictures


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