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What is Osteomyelitis: Know the causes, symptoms & treatment

The role of our immune system is to protect the body from infections. Infections occur when foreign particles or germs enter the human body to cause damage. These germs can include viruses, bacteria, yeast, or any other microorganisms. Some infections can be common, they can be chronic or acute. 

However, one of the uncommon infections is a bone infection. It can affect 1 in 10,000 people. A bone infection is referred to as Osteomyelitis. Let’s learn more about Osteomyelitis in this article – including its causes, symptoms, and treatment. 

Let’s brush up on the basics first before we dive in to discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment. 

What is Osteomyelitis? 

Osteomyelitis is an infection caused to a bone. This infection is caused when bacteria travel through the bloodstream to reach bones. It can also spread from proximate tissues. Alternatively, it is also possible that the infection is caused when an injury exposes the bone to bacteria. 

Osteomyelitis can affect anybody but smokers or those suffering from chronic health issues such as kidney failure or diabetes are prone to bone infection. 

Causes of Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is caused by a bacterium called Staphylococcus. This bacterium is most commonly found in the nose or on the skin. The bacteria can reach the bone through the bloodstream or can be caused by injuries or germs. It can happen as these wounds and surgeries can expose the body to certain germs These germs may travel to the bone, ultimately infecting it. 

Symptoms of Osteomyelitis

Now that you know what Osteomyelitis is and the causes of osteomyelitis, let’s discuss osteomyelitis symptoms that can help in the diagnosis. Please note these symptoms can vary with age and are not specific. Nevertheless, here are some of the main Osteomyelitis symptoms: 

  • Excessive sweating
  • Bone pain
  • Fever and chills
  • Uneasiness or discomfort 
  • Sweating and redness
  • Open wound with pus
  • Pain where the infection is

How can Osteomyelitis be treated? 

Before the medical professional devices the right treatment for you, they will examine your symptoms. You may also be instructed to go through some tests. These tests can include: 

  • Blood cultures
  • Bone scan 
  • Bone biopsy 
  • Bone X-ray
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • C-reactive protein (CRP)
  • Bone MRI
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
  • Needle aspiration of the affected areas


A few decades ago, Osteomyelitis used to be untreatable. However, now as medical infrastructure is seeing advancement, this bone infection has now become treatable. 

The objective of this treatment is to cure the infection and reduce any damage that is inflicted on the bone and the surrounding tissues. There are two methods of treatment that can be employed.

The first uses antibiotics. Antibiotics are usually prescribed to the patient to kill the bacteria that cause the bone infection. Depending on the treatment and your condition, you may be prescribed one or more antibiotics at a given time. These antibiotics are usually given  intravenously  and it can help control the infection without requiring any surgery. 

 In some cases where antibiotics don’t work or the condition is serious and chronic, surgery may also be prescribed to remove dead bone tissue. This surgery prevents the infection from spreading to avoid the worst-case scenario of amputation. Surgery may also be needed if there are metal plates near the infected area. In addition, if this infection takes place after joint replacement, the medical practitioner may prescribe surgery in this case as well. 

Tips to prevent Osteomyelitis

In some cases, there might not be any way to prevent Osteomyelitis. However, the best you can do is stay hygienic and clean. In case of an injury, make sure you clean and disinfect regularly to avoid the spread of germs. To do that, it is suggested that you wash the open wound for five minutes, then apply sterile bandages. If you are suffering from diabetes, ensure that you take care of your feet as you may develop Osteomyelitis in your feet if you happen to have foot ulcers.

Bottom line

If you experience any Osteomyelitis symptoms, ensure you get medical care at the earliest. Remember, the sooner you treat bone infection, the better it is. With the right treatment at the right time, you will be able to avoid acute Osteomyelitis and worse-case scenarios. You would have the best chance for recovery if you provide yourself timely treatment.

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