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How serious is a bone infection

Your bones and joints are crucial to your general health. They give your body its structure, shield vital organs, manufacture blood cells, allow you to move, and a whole lot more. However, your bones and joints can become contaminated by bacteria that come from a variety of sources. If not addressed, infections of the bones and joints can have long-term health implications.

Learn more about these infections' causes, symptoms, and treatments from medical professionals.

How Do Bone and Joint Infections Develop?

Any bone in the body can become infected, and this condition is referred to as osteomyelitis. Joint infections are infections of the bones' meeting places, the joints. Joint infections may spread to the nearby bone if they worsen over time.

The term "bone infections" refers to a wide range of infections, including:

  1. Bone infections that start as blood infections
  2. Infections in diabetic feet
  3. Infected spinal cord
  4. Infections in artificial joints

According to Neel Shah, MD, an infectious disease specialist at UPMC, "When you combine all of them, they are a fairly prevalent issue in the world of infectious disease." "Bone and joint infections are present in around one-third to one-fourth of routine consultations for infectious diseases. It is becoming more and more typical.

What Defines Infections of the Bone and Joints?

While fungal infections can also occur, bacterial infections are the most common cause of bone and joint diseases.

An injury to the skin covering the bone can cause several bone infections to start. Although your skin serves as a barrier to protect your body, any wound can let bacteria in, which then find their way into the bones. Bone infections frequently result from staph and strep germs, which are skin-borne.

According to Dr. Shah, "Anything that hurts or harms the overlying skin raises the possibility of an underlying bone infection." Your body is shielded from infection by a natural barrier called your skin. Infection can result from any kind of trauma, thus.

Additionally, infections can develop in other places of your body and travel through the circulation to your bones. An infection may also result from surgery if there are issues with the bone, joint, or gadget that was implanted.

Risk factors for infections of the bones and joints

Your chance of developing bone and joint infections can be influenced by a number of variables, such as:

  1. A piercing, puncture, or trauma injury
  2. Injection of drugs
  3. Either smoking or drinking
  4. Chronic wounds can be brought on by illnesses like diabetes or vascular disease.
  5. Obesity
  6. An inadequate ability to control the wound
  7. Newly performed joint or bone surgery.
  8. Immune system dysfunction


Acute osteomyelitis and chronic osteomyelitis are the two main categories of bone infections.

1. Acute osteomyelitis

A bone infection called acute osteomyelitis often originates in the circulation. The infection enters the bloodstream and travels to the bone.

Because the bone is a vascular structure, the infection can enter the bone through the bloodstream and spread from the inside out, according to Dr. Shah. "It involves the internal blood vessels of the bone, which are typically concentrated in the bone marrow, and it works its way out."

According to Dr. Shah, individuals with acute osteomyelitis frequently appear ill because the infection starts in their blood. They could also have an increased white blood cell count, a fever, and erratic vital signs like low blood pressure or a fast heartbeat.

2. Chronic osteomyelitis

People who have open wounds or skin ulcers on a regular basis are more likely to develop chronic osteomyelitis. Bacteria collect on the skin's surface and traverse an open wound to the bone.

According to Dr. Shah, "the bacteria are able to move down deeper into the tissue structures as the wound or ulcer gets deeper and deeper." "It involves the underlying bone in the end."

According to Dr. Shah, patients with chronic osteomyelitis typically don't seem as unwell as those with acute osteomyelitis because it progresses more slowly. Acute osteomyelitis is normally caused by a single organism, but chronic osteomyelitis is typically caused by several microorganisms.


Pain at the injection site is the most typical sign of bone and joint infections. It could indicate infection if you experience persistent soreness and/or shooting pains.

Following are more osteomyelitis signs and symptoms:

  1. Existing wounds or ulcers getting worse i.e., growing larger, draining, or appearing redder
  2. Even with good wound care, non-healing wounds.
  3. The skin over the diseased bone is red or swollen.
  4. Sweats, chills, or a fever
  5. Malaise or fatigue

Various symptoms are influenced by the infection's site. For instance, a spinal infection may be the cause of severe back discomfort that radiates to your arms and legs. A spinal cord infection may be the cause of numbness in the arms, legs, and buttocks as well as loss of bowel or bladder control.

Call your doctor if you have any of the above symptoms


Infections can be detected by doctors in a number of ways. During a physical examination, they can spot indications of a bone infection, such as exposed bone. They might also do the following tests to identify infections:

  1. X-rays
  2. MRIs
  3. Blood tests
  4. Bone was included in the biopsy.
  5. A bone scan


Doctors can start treating an infection after a diagnosis has been made. The first steps in treatment normally involve surgery to remove the infection's primary cause and the administration of medications.

Debridement, a surgical procedure, is used to remove contaminated bone. They clean out the contaminated bone and get rid of the infection's origin.

Cleaning out the contaminated bone is always regarded to be optimal in an ideal world, according to Dr. Shah. "You get rid of the majority of the bacteria present in the body at that particular site and you get rid of the source of the infection."

Surgeons remove the hardware if it is the source of the illness in your body.

To aid your body in fighting the infection after surgery, doctors generally prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics may be the only remedy required for certain infections.


Early treatment of a bone infection usually results in better results. The location and severity of the illness, as well as your general health, are factors that can affect recovery.

If neglected, bone infections can result in growth impairment, septic arthritis, and even amputation. Septic arthritis is an infection that spreads to neighboring joints.

According to Dr. Shah, "the vast majority of cases are completely treatable." "As things get worse, it gets tougher to treat them without resorting to more extreme procedures, such as amputation and protracted antibiotic treatments. The easier it is to treat, the sooner it is detected and found.


The best defense against bone infections is excellent wound care. The right wound care can help keep infections at bay.

Controlling your underlying illness will help avoid infections if you have a condition like diabetes that could lead to persistent sores.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle and refraining from using drugs, alcohol, and tobacco can also be helpful.

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