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What should I know about bone infections?

You can probably think of many ways you could break one of your bones. Some people sustain a bone fracture just by falling down and hitting hard concrete. Bone injuries can be very painful, but pain is not the only consequence of breaking one of your bones. You could experience an even worse problem.

When a bone breaks, it is vulnerable to infection from bacteria. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, this is not a common problem, but when a bone infection does happen, it can lead to severe health problems, prolonged treatment and recovery, and possibly death if not dealt with in time.

How bone infections happen

If you were to puncture your skin and expose one of your bones, it can open up a way for bacteria to enter your bone through your open wound. This is the most common time for bacteria to infect a bone. Additionally, bacteria could also invade your body during surgery on your bones or even afterwards during recovery, though these instances do not happen as often.

Risk factors for an infection

With a strong immune system, your body stands a good chance of dealing with an infection before it becomes a problem. However, certain risk factors that decrease your immunity could also boost your risk for a bone infection. An immune deficiency like HIV is one such factor, as are conditions like diabetes and arthritis.

Lifestyle choices such as smoking and using nicotine may diminish the effectiveness of your immune system. You might also have problems fighting off infections by not having the proper diet, failing to keep up hygiene, or if you suffer from morbid obesity.

Treating a bone infection

Doctors can treat bone infections, but the process may not be easy. Getting rid of a bone infection may involve more than one surgery on the infected bone. You will likely need to take antibiotics from 6 to 12 weeks, though some people require antibiotics for the rest of their lives if the condition is serious enough. If the infection is so severe that it could kill you, doctors might amputate your infected limb. Fortunately, this is rarely necessary.