Osteomyelitis - Bone Infection

by Sam Malone

Osteomyelitis is a bone infection that usually affects the legs, arms, vertebrae and foot bones. It is usually caused by a bacterial infection, Staphylococcus being the main culprit, or by a fungal infection. It is more common among men, children and those over the age of 50 though its incidence in the U.S. is relatively rare.

Bone infections can be caused indirectly by bacteria travelling from another area of the body via the bloodstream to infect the bone. Alternatively, the bone itself can be the primary point of infection. Osteomyelitis can be classified as either acute or chronic. Acute cases usually last for a few months while chronic cases can last for years. It is a serious condition and needs to be treated at the earliest which is why any natural cures or home remedies should only be attempted after consulting a doctor.

At times osteomyelitis affecting the hip, pelvis and back may show little or no symptoms. At other times the symptoms may include:
  • Pain and swelling at the site of infection
  • Abscesses around the affected site
  • A nagging back pain that seems to resist all forms of treatment including pain medications
  • Fever and chills
The different types of osteomyelitis include:
  • Infections that travel from one area of the body to another via the bloodstream. These are the types most commonly found in children.
  • Infections that occur after an injury such as a fracture or after surgery.
  • Infections that are the result of poor circulation such as in the case of diabetics.
  • Infections that affect the spine which are also known as vertebral osteomyelitis
After checking your medical history and performing a complete physical examination, your doctor may order certain tests. This may include a blood test to check for infection and/or a biopsy. The latter can be done either surgically or by using a technique known as needle aspiration. Imaging tests may also be performed. These may include x-rays, bone scans using either CT scans, MRI scans or PET scans with the latter being particularly effective in the evaluation of chronic osteomyelitis.

Chronic osteomyelitis is usually treated using a combination of surgery and medication while acute cases are usually treated with only medication. The medication prescribed will depend on the type of infection. For those suffering from chronic osteomyelitis, antibiotic treatment may be continued for many years, sometimes for the rest of the patient’s life.

The surgical and medical treatment suggested by your doctor can be complemented using a variety of alternative therapies. Most of these therapies or home remedies focus on strengthening your immune system so that you may overcome the infection quicker.

One way to strengthen the immune system is to have a well-balanced diet. To this end, you can try taking certain supplements that will make up for any nutritional deficiencies in your diet. These include:

  • Vitamin C – Take up to 500mg twice a day for a week. Reduce the dose if you notice any gastrointestinal side effects.
  • Vitamin E – 400 – 800 IU per day
  • Vitamin A – Take up to 15000 IU per day (avoid if pregnant)
  • Zinc – Take up to 50 mg per day
  • Selenium – Consult your doctor about the appropriate dose of selenium
  • Probiotics – Take up to 3 capsules containing acidophilus and bifidobacteria (up to 5 million organisms per day). This will help replenish the store of good bacteria in your gut that can get depleted due the use of antibiotics.
There are also several herbs available that can help to strengthen your immune system. Herbs are available in many forms such as dried extract in the form of capsules, powders and tea, glycerites or glycerin extracts and tinctures. Alcoholics and those with a history of drug abuse should avoid taking tinctures as they contain alcohol.

Herbs that may help strengthen the immune system and fight infection include:

  • Garlic (Allium sativum): It has antibacterial properties that may help fight infection. It can be eaten raw or cooked. Garlic extract capsules are also available but those taking blood thinners such as aspirin should avoid these capsules.
  • Echinacea: It is reputed to be a powerful immune booster but should only be taken under medical supervision as it may interact adversely with other medications.
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis): It has antibacterial properties and can be taken in doses ranging from 500 to 1000 mg thrice a day.
  • Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcussenticosus): It can help provide a boost to your immune system but it should only be taken under medical supervision.
  • Astragalus (Astragalusmembranaceus): Another immune booster, it should be taken in doses of up to 7 g per day.
Homeopathic medications may also be used as supportive treatment. However, before trying any of these alternative therapies, remember that they are intended as a complement to conventional treatment and not as a replacement. Always consult your doctor before trying any of these alternative home remedies.

References:
  1. http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/osteomyelitis-000119.htm
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001473/

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
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