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Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic

Osteomyelitis: Bones Get Sick, Too

No one likes an infection. You can’t go about your normal life or regular activities when you’re feeling under the weather. Some bacterial issues can even be painful. When you think of infections, you think of your sinuses or lungs, or even your skin. You may not realize that bones can become infected, too. Anyone with diabetic feet or otherwise compromised limb health, however, understands the serious risk of issues like osteomyelitis.

Bacteria in the Bones

Osteomyelitis is a potentially deadly infection in bone tissue, typically caused by bacteria, though occasionally fungus may be a culprit as well. The invading pathogen reaches the bones in several different ways. It can travel through the blood stream, migrate from neighboring tissues, or attack exposed bones directly. Usually this occurs if a severe fracture or some kind of surgery exposes parts of your skeleton.

Bones are normally resistant to infections, so often there are other contributing factors that make the body more vulnerable. Diabetes, circulatory disorders, and conditions that impair the immune system increase your risk for the damage. Diabetic ulcers in particular are a common source of the problem, which is why open wounds need to receive care so promptly.

What to Expect When You’re Infected

Osteomyelitis can develop in any age, from children to seniors. It may develop within a few weeks of a serious injury, or it may appear months after the original illness or problem. You develop a fever and may feel fatigued. The area around the infection will hurt and may be difficult to use. You may notice redness, swelling, and stiffness around the infected bone. Your skin may also feel warm to the touch. However, diabetic feet may not have as much pain, since neuropathy damages the nerves in your lower limbs, so you’ll need to watch for other signs of infection.

Eliminate the Problem and Restore the Feet

Treating a foot infection successfully requires catching the problem and using aggressive medications. Dr. Darren Silvester will examine any infections in your feet to check for osteomyelitis. Several different tests can help diagnose the problem, from blood tests to tissue biopsies. Once the bacteria has been identified, our staff will begin immediate treatment to save your foot.

You will have to take powerful antibiotics to combat the infection. Depending on the seriousness of the condition, you may have to be hospitalized for a time to receive the medication through an IV line. Any open wounds around the affected area, particularly on diabetic feet, will have to be managed as well. This may involve cleaning and draining abscesses or sores before bandaging them. In some cases, your foot may need to be immobilize to prevent movement from traumatizing the weakened bones. This is a more common precaution in children, though anyone may need it.

Depending on how much damage the bones have absorbed, you may need surgery to scrape away the infected and dead tissue. This allows the healthy bone to regrow. Failing to deal with the condition quickly enough may require a limb amputation to prevent the problem from becoming deadly.

Osteomyelitis is a dangerous infection that can dramatically impact your lower limbs. To prevent an amputation or worse, you need to have it treated promptly by experienced professionals. If you’re concerned about a potential infection, have a diabetic wound, or developed an illness after an injury, contact Dr. Darren Silvester and our staff at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic in Pleasanton, TX, to check your feet. Send us an online request or call (830) 569-3338 to make an appointment with us.