Osteomyelitis is a bone infection. The infection can either begin in the bone itself or it may travel to the bone through the bloodstream or spread from a nearby tissue.
Osteomyelitis can be:
- acute – when the infection develops after an injury, infection or a condition, and
- chronic – when the condition regularly returns
Osteomyelitis most commonly affects the long bones of the legs and upper arm in children, and the spine bones in adults. People who have diabetes may develop osteomyelitis in their feet if they have foot ulcers.
In the past, this condition was incurable condition. Today, it is successfully treated.
The symptoms of acute osteomyelitis, which develop in a week, are:
- high temperature, irritability, fatigue
- Swelling, redness, and warmth in the area of the infection around the affected area
- Intense pain
- Severe back pain if the osteomyelitis affects the spine
The symptoms for acute and chronic osteomyelitis are very similar
The cause of osteomyelitis in most cases is the bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus. There are many ways one can acquire the bacterium, such as surgery or injury, diseases that cause circulation disorders (diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, sickle cell disease), other conditions when catheters are required, impaired immune system (due to cancer treatment, HIV, organ transplant), or illicit drugs (use of non-sterile needles).
The risk factors of osteomyelitis are:
- Poor blood supply
- Recent injury or surgery
- Use of injected illegal drugs
- Poor immune system
The complications from osteomyelitis can occur in chronic and severe cases, and these include:
- osteonecrosis – dead bone as there is no circulation in the bone
- septic arthritis – when the infection has spread to a nearby joint
- impaired growth in children if the ends of the long bones are affected
- skin cancer – in cases of open sores
The best way to prevent osteomyelitis is to keep things clean. If there is a cut, wash it completely and bandage it in sterile bandages. In case of diabetes, take care of infections and consult your doctor.
In case of acute osteomyelitis, the aim is to prevent the condition from turning into a chronic problem that requires ongoing treatment. In chronic osteomyelitis, the condition can be kept under control.