Osteomyelitis - Symptoms

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What are osteomyelitis symptoms and signs?

Symptoms of osteomyelitis can vary greatly. In children, osteomyelitis most often occurs more quickly. They develop pain or tenderness over the affected bone, and they may have difficulty or inability to use the affected limb or to bear weight or walk due to severe pain. They may also have fever, chills, and redness at the site of infection.

In adults, the symptoms often develop more gradually and include fever, chills, irritability, swelling or redness over the affected bone, stiffness, and nausea. In people with diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, or peripheral vascular disease, there may be no pain or fever. The only symptom may be an area of skin breakdown that is worsening or not healing.

Acute osteomyelitis occurs with a rapid onset and is usually accompanied by the symptoms of pain, fever, and stiffness. It generally occurs after a break in the skin from injury, trauma, surgery, or skin ulceration from wounds.

Chronic osteomyelitis is insidious (slow) in onset. It may be the result of a previous infection of osteomyelitis. Despite multiple courses of antibiotics, it may reoccur. Symptoms of chronic osteomyelitis are subtle but may include fever, pain, redness, or discharge at the site of infection.

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Comment from: betty, 55-64 Female (Caregiver) Published: February 20

I"m 61 years old and when I was 9 years old I had the most excruciating pain in my right leg. I had a hard time walking for 3 days, on the 4th day I couldn"t walk at all. I had a fever and was crying with so much pain. My parents took me to the hospital for sick children. The doctor did a spinal tap and full checkup. I was then diagnosed with osteomyelitis. I spent two weeks in isolation and was given a shot of penicillin every 4 hours. I was then moved to a regular floor for another 2 weeks and was given penicillin intravenously. I was sent home after one month, then spent an additional month at home. I was walking with no problem after the first two weeks at home. I was totally fine after that and have never had problems with osteomyelitis again.

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Comment from: Cracker, 65-74 (Patient) Published: May 22

I am 65 years old and was diagnosed with osteomyelitis of the right heel. I remember the pain, for a while I walked on the ball of my foot until being bedridden for several weeks till I was placed in hospital where a piece of bone was removed from the lower part of my heel. After several months recuperating and physiotherapy, I was ok. The only ongoing problem I had was walking with the heel of my right shoe down, eventually my dad reinforced my shoes. Today with the advent of joggers and high sided shoes I have no problems.

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