Discitis- Symptoms and Treatments
Our spine is made up of a number of vertebrae stacked on top of each other. There are discs, plate like structures made up of cartilage, between vertebrae. They separate the vertebrae from each other and also act as shock absorbing cushions.
Discitis is a disease that occurs in children as well as in adults. It causes inflammation of the intervertebral discs. It may happen when there is an infection in any other part of the body, especially the pelvic region but spreads to the spine via the blood stream. The infection may then spread from the disc to the vertebral bones.
Signs and Symptoms
The first indication of discitis may be too much pain in the back, especially the lower back. Children may refuse to even walk because of the pain. Patients might also show signs like leaning and supporting the back while walking. It might be difficult for them to get up from the floor.
Other signs include mild fever, depending upon the type and degree of infection. Patients find it difficult to raise a leg up while lying on their back. They also feel tired and can experience sudden sweats or chills. Loss of appetite is also common. The pain may spread from the back to the abdomen, hip, leg or groin.
If the infection spreads to a considerable extent, the spine may suffer chronic inflammation. In some cases, the infection may cause the vertebrae to fuse together. If this occurs in a young child, the fused vertebrae grow together. So when the spine grows, it tilts forward. This is known as Kyphosis.
Diagnosing Discitis is not simple. Blood tests showing infection are not enough to indicate the disease. The abnormalities of the vertebrae or constriction of disc space may be visible in an X-ray but not before 2- 3 weeks have passed since the disease sets in. Bone scans and MRI are helpful in identifying the spread of infection.
Depending on the severity of the infection, the treatment may comprise of medicines or surgery. If the infection is because of some bacteria, oral and intravenous antibiotics for a month or so may be prescribed by the doctor.
Rest is very important. Only when there is no pain should you try moving around slowly at first. You may also need a brace or a cast to support the spine. Acupuncture is also an option to ease the pain.
Surgery, though rarely suggested, is needed to clean out severe infections. A fusion plug or metallic insertions can help in movement.
Discitis is not contagious. Also there is no specific diet that helps improve the condition of the patients.
With time, too much of antibiotics can cause diarrhoea or allergies. It is important to keep a check on pain levels and temperature. Periodic x-rays and scans must be carried out. Continuous negative cultures might indicate tuberculosis.
Worsening of pain or any new symptoms must be reported to the doctor. Any other infection in any part of the body must be promptly treated.