When you come to Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists, your feet are in good hands. Both Dr. Richard Nichols and Dr. Joseph Harvey are experts who have the skills and knowledge to recognize and treat even relatively rare conditions that may affect your feet. Osteomyelitis is a type of infection that affects two out of every 10,000 people in the general population, but one that the experts at Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists see more often than you might expect.
The word osteomyelitis offers some clues about what the condition is. Osteo- means “related to the bones” and -mye- refers to marrow, while -itis means “inflammation.” Osteomyelitis is an infection of your bones. It can be caused by bacteria or a fungus, but regardless of the cause, if it’s left untreated, you may suffer bone loss.
Osteomyelitis can develop in different ways. Infection can reach your bones through your bloodstream or can spread from nearby tissue into your bones, or you might have an injury to your bones, which then develops into an infection.
You may have swelling, redness, or unexplained pain in your foot, you may have osteomyelitis, especially if you have certain risk factors.
Many of our patients have diabetes, because it’s important for diabetics to get regular podiatric care. One of the main risk factors for osteomyelitis is having diabetes. Others include:
- A weakened immune system
- Sickle cell disease
- Getting hemodialysis
- Being elderly
- Using intravenous drugs
- A recent injury
- Poor circulation
Most people’s bones are resistant to infection, but any of the conditions above make you more vulnerable to osteomyelitis. When you have risk factors and infection finds a pathway to your bones, osteomyelitis is a possibility.
At one time, osteomyelitis was considered incurable. Now, however, doctors have great success in treating it. It can be an acute, or short-term, condition, or it may become a chronic condition that requires active and constant management.
The first step in treatment is diagnosis. Osteomyelitis is diagnosed using blood tests, imaging, and sometimes a biopsy so that your doctor can determine the exact bacteria or fungus causing the problem.
You may need powerful antibiotics, or one of several surgical interventions, or a combination of the two treatments. You may need surgery to drain fluid from the affected area, to remove any diseased bone or tissue around the bone, or to restore blood flow to the infected bone.
When osteomyelitis is a chronic condition, it never fully goes away. When you have chronic osteomyelitis, you have a progressive disease that may steadily worsen or may seem to come and go.
In cases of chronic osteomyelitis, Dr. Nichols or Dr. Harvey may recommend the use of an implantable neurostimulator pulse generator to help control your symptoms. Neurostimulator devices are highly effective in reducing pain.
If you’d like to learn more about osteomyelitis, book an appointment at Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists. We’re offering both in-person and telehealth visits currently, and we’re happy to answer your questions. You can schedule by calling either our Grapevine or Keller offices.