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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.

Return to Osteomyelitis

See what others are saying

Comment from: troutbum1947, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: October 16

I had an IV installed on my wrist for installing a stent. A large edema was seen at the IV site and removed. My wrist and 3 fingers would burn very painfully. The doctors said it would just go away. I have endured tremendous pain in wrist and fingers for 6 months .Doctors said I had gout. I finally went to an acupuncture guy who finally got the problem diagnosed as osteomyelitis and stopped my pain.

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Comment from: lizzzzz, 65-74 Male (Caregiver) Published: June 01

My dad underwent knee replacement surgery in December 2014. At some point during the days following surgery, 2 staples came lose and a few days later those staples were removed. As a result of that, the incision began separating. He was sent home from sub-acute rehabilitation after 6 days with a leg stabilizer from heel to hip. Two days later the stabilizer was taken off and my mother was tasked by the orthopedist to care for the wound. It continued to separate, all the while my dad went to outpatient physiotherapy (PT) and 4 post operation office visits with the orthopedist. On the 4th visit, he complained of leg pain in the non-surgery leg as well as back pain. The orthopedist explained this away of my dad sitting too much. No blood work was ever taken during the post operation visits. We fought to finally get a wound care nurse in and home PT. The morning that was set to start, he ended up going to the emergency room. He spent 11 weeks in the ICU, 6 weeks in acute rehab, and 2 months in sub-acute rehab for his osteomyelitis treatment. He's been home since July 2015. The neurosurgeon flushed out abscesses in his spine and removed the infected bone. He said he'd be walking in 7 months. As of today, he still cannot transfer, stand or walk. He also went through kidney failure, respiratory failure, blood clots and many other life battles. Amazing that he made it and we are fortunate but losing hope that he will ever be able to walk.

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Comment from: JO, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: May 11

My husband was misdiagnosed with Pick's disease a year ago. I was concerned about him since his sister was in end-stage Alzheimer's disease, and died from it this year. Our physician only sent us to a psychology group who specializes in Alzheimer's disease. After only a three hour interview with a guy with an MS degree, they diagnosed him with Pick's Disease. No other testing, and most of the questions they asked me were misinterpreted on the evaluation. After conferring with his other physicians who have known him for 20 plus years, as well as a trusted psychologist, I was advised to throw away the report of Pick's Disease and seek a malpractice lawsuit. Be sure to get all the answers before some guy tells you to start looking for nursing homes like they told me.

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