Podiatric osteomyelitis is a bacterial or fungal infection in a foot or ankle bone that can cause the soft tissue inside your bones to swell painfully. As the infection progresses, the inflammation can cut off the bone's blood supply, resulting in bone death or loss. For patients with podiatric osteomyelitis, prompt treatment is essential to prevent permanent damage. Here's what you need to know about this serious foot or ankle bone infection, including how Massapequa Podiatry Associates can help you get back on your feet.
Causes and Risk Factors of Podiatric Osteomyelitis
Osteomyelitis occurs when bacteria (usually staphylococcus aureus) or fungi cause an infection that travels through the bloodstream or spreads from nearby tissues before settling into a bone and multiplying. If an open wound exposes a bone to germs, osteomyelitis can originate in the bone itself.
While these infections can affect people of any age, they're more common among very young children and elderly patients. Having a chronic health condition, such as diabetes, kidney failure, peripheral vascular disease, or sickle cell anemia, can also make you more prone to osteomyelitis. Diabetics with foot ulcers are particularly at risk. Additionally, metal implants, such as screws in a foot or ankle bone, or having recently suffered a broken bone or traumatic injury can make these infections more likely.
Diagnosing Podiatric Osteomyelitis
When you visit a podiatrist for suspected podiatric osteomyelitis, the doctor will discuss your symptoms and medical history and perform a thorough physical examination of your feet. They may also order a variety of tests to gain more information before making their diagnosis.
Common Diagnostic Tests
- Blood tests. A blood culture can determine whether there's bacteria in your bloodstream, while a complete blood count (CBC) can help your doctor spot indications of inflammation or infection.
- Imaging tests. X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, and CT scans provide your podiatrist with a better look at the affected bones, muscles, and tissues.
- Bone scans. These tests can be instrumental in diagnosing podiatric osteomyelitis, as they help doctors identify infections or fractures in the bone.
- Biopsy. This test uses a needle to extract samples of fluid, tissue, or bone from the affected foot or ankle, which are then examined for signs of infection.
Treating a Podiatric Bone Infection
Podiatric osteomyelitis is a severe condition that can take weeks or even months to heal—and the sooner you seek treatment, the better. There are a variety of therapies available to treat or manage these infections.
Osteomyelitis Treatment Options
- Pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help control pain and reduce inflammation
- A long course of intravenous (IV) antibiotics, followed by oral antibiotics can help bring osteomyelitis infections caused by bacteria under control
- Oral antifungal medications can treat osteomyelitis caused by fungi
Without prompt professional treatment, podiatric osteomyelitis can cause significant complications, including deep abscesses that may require needle aspiration to drain fluid and pus; bone death, which could lead to amputation; and disrupted growth of the affected bone (in young patients). In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to remove the infected dead tissue and bone.
Don't Wait to Get the Care You Need for Osteomyelitis
An acute osteomyelitis infection can quickly become chronic. Don't risk letting a minor infection become a long-term issue that can affect your mobility and quality of life. Catching an infection in its earliest stages and seeking out high-quality podiatric care is key. At Massapequa Podiatry Associates, we offer the comprehensive care you need to bounce back after a severe foot or ankle bone infection.
Schedule an Appointment
Complete our online contact form, or call our office at 516-541-9000 (toll-free 877-674-7422) to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced podiatrists, Dr. Corey Fox or Dr. Justin LoBello. If you have questions about the foot or ankles injuries we address or the treatments available at our practice, browse our FAQs.