What is inflammation of bone?

Inflammation of bone is known as osteitis or periostitis. Inflammation occurs when the body's immune system sends cells and chemicals into the area to destroy microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites that may be present. This can result in swelling, redness, and pain at the site. It usually only affects one part of a bone but it can affect any bone in the body, including the small bones inside your ear, ribs, and pelvis.

Osteitis can be caused by an infection anywhere in the body. It may also develop after surgery, tooth extraction, or injury to a bone. Inflammation of the jawbone (parapharyngeal space) is called Ludwig's angina when severe and presents an emergency situation.

bones inflammation
bones inflammation

There are two varieties of inflammation of bone: acute osteitis which occurs rapidly over days or weeks and chronic osteitis which occurs slowly over months or years. Symptoms include pain, swelling, tenderness, redness, and warmth at the site. The skin in the area may turn redder compared with other areas of the body ( erythema ). There may also be flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, headache, general aches and pains, fever, and chills.

Often, other conditions that cause similar symptoms need to be considered. It may be difficult to tell the difference between osteitis and, for example, arthritis, gout, or other forms of bone inflammation. This is especially true in people with chronic diseases such as HIV / AIDS. A blood test can show if there is an infection present although this cannot determine where it is located. If you have these symptoms you should see your doctor so they can diagnose the condition appropriately.

Osteitis needs to be treated early to prevent further complications from developing. 

What causes inflammation of bone?

Osteitis is commonly caused by trauma to the bone or bacterial infection. Other causes include fractures stress injuries, tumors bursitis, gout psoriasis, systemic lupus erythematosus, ulcerative colitis, and pseudogout.

In other cases osteitis is caused by a systemic disease such as leukemia or HIV / AIDS. In these cases, the condition tends to come on slowly over months or even years.

In other cases, there may be no apparent cause for the inflammation of the bone. This is known as idiopathic osteitis. It usually occurs in children and adolescents but can also affect adults. It affects both sexes equally and usually involves large bones such as those of the pelvis, vertebrae (spine), ribs, and femur (thigh). The symptoms are usually very similar to an infection although they tend not to last as long. In most cases, it clears up within one year although it may recur in some cases.

If you have chronic osteitis you are thought to be at greater risk of developing cancer. This is because the bone marrow becomes overactive due to low blood counts. This can cause excess red cells, white cells, and platelets to form in the bone marrow. These then spill into the bloodstream and accumulate elsewhere which causes problems such as a high temperature ( fever ), chills, sweats, and weight loss. In particularly severe cases this can lead to acute myeloid leukemia.

People with HIV / AIDS tend to develop a number of different infections more frequently. If they also have inflammation of one or more bones, doctors suspect that they may also have HIV even if their test results for this are negative. They are then tested for HIV antibodies to confirm the diagnosis.

What are the symptoms of osteitis?

Symptoms tend to develop slowly and may come and go. You may experience: pain in the bone redness, warmth, and swelling at the site feeling unwell flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, chills, and fever in severe cases, if the inflammation of bone is combined with an infection elsewhere in the body, there may also be: a high temperature (fever) shivering, sweating, loss of appetite, cough, shortness of breath, diarrhea or constipation, nausea and vomiting,  yellowing skin, bruising or bleeding problems such as nosebleeds, easy bruising or heavy periods.

How is osteitis diagnosed?

Your doctor will diagnose osteitis by taking a medical history, examining you, and carrying out tests. The type of test they use will depend on what has caused the inflammation of a bone in your particular case. If it's due to an infection, blood samples can be taken to check for signs of infection elsewhere in the body. 

X-rays may sometimes be necessary to show up whether there is any damage or narrowing of certain parts of the bone. Sometimes CT scans or MRI scans are used instead of or in addition to x-ray imaging. If there is no obvious cause for your condition, further investigations are usually undertaken especially if there have been other symptoms such as weight loss, fever, or chills.


Treatment for inflammation of the bone caused by an infection usually consists of antibiotics taken either by mouth or injection. Surgery to drain pus from the affected area may be needed in certain cases. For example, if it is due to a tumor involving the bone, the tumor would need to be removed. 

If osteitis is due to low blood counts, your doctor may give you injections of growth factors or remove some of your blood so that levels return to normal. This will help reduce the inflammation of the bone and other symptoms related to chronic idiopathic osteitis.

Physical therapy has also been used to treat idiopathic osteitis although this needs further study before any definitive conclusions can be made.

What can I do to prevent osteitis?

There is no way to prevent inflammation of the bone caused by an infection. Treatment with antibiotics will usually clear up this type of osteitis. However, you may be given preventive injections of penicillin or other antibiotics if your risk of developing such an infection is high.

As far as idiopathic osteitis goes, there isn't much you can do apart from seeking treatment for any underlying condition that may be the cause.

If you have chronic idiopathic osteitis and are at greater risk of developing cancer, it's important to regularly monitor yourself for signs and symptoms which could indicate the development of leukemia. If this occurs, seek immediate medical advice so that possible treatments can be started before it progresses any further.

What can I do to help manage osteitis?

If you have chronic idiopathic osteitis, taking part in regular physical activity may be beneficial for you. Talk to your doctor who can advise you on suitable activities and exercises which would be appropriate for you given your current symptoms and whether there are any precautions or limitations that would need to apply.

Healthy lifestyle choices such as maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, avoiding excessive use of alcohol, and ensuring optimal nutrition are also very important in helping avoid osteoporosis. If you have this condition, working with an occupational therapist will help define the most effective ways in which you can handle everyday tasks at home, school, or work so that you can continue to live independently.

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Can osteitis be cured?

Osteitis caused by an infection is usually curable with prompt treatment. However, idiopathic osteitis has no cure as it is not due to an underlying medical condition.

The good news is that inflammation of the bone caused by chronic idiopathic osteitis or cancer does not necessarily affect future growth and development. It's also unlikely to cause problems in other parts of the body unless cancer spreads there from the bone.

Wherever possible, emotional support should be provided for you during your treatment to help ease any pain or discomfort that you might experience while managing your condition. 

For more information on specific types of treatments available to provide this, talk to your doctor who can refer you to someone experienced in dealing with these issues.

What is osteitis pubis?

Osteitis pubis is a painful condition of the pelvis which affects athletes participating in activities requiring kicking movements such as soccer, rugby, field hockey, and ice hockey. It's characterized by inflammation or irritation of a bony prominence on either the front or rear surface of the pubic symphysis 

(a joint where the lower halves of the pelvic bones meet at the front of your body). Osteitis pubis can also develop following injury to these areas.

Is osteitis pubis serious?

Osteitis pubis is a relatively common injury among athletes participating in sports involving kicking or rapid twisting of the pelvis. The condition can be serious as it may lead to significant disability, particularly if it's not properly managed. It can also cause long-term problems with other parts of your body, especially your legs.

It's important to seek immediate medical advice if you have signs and symptoms of osteitis pubis. This will help reduce any risk of complications due to inadequate treatment.