Infections in any part of the body are to be avoided at any cost. However, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, it can be particularly important to prevent or control the spread of infections. As someone suffering from an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis, you are at greater risk of infection because your immune system is compromised.
Soft tissue infections can occur through any break in the skin which may be difficult to clean or flush out. Soft tissue and skin infections, when left untreated, can lead to infections in the bones and joints. Even a small scratch on the leg can lead to an infected knee joint and cause permanent damage.
Some common soft tissue infections include:
- Paronychia, found along the edge of finger or toe nails
- Felon, affects the pad of the fingertip
- Tenosynovitis, affects the flexor tendons of the fingers
- Furuncle, infection found in hair follicles
- Impetigo, in young children it appears as a blister, and in older people it looks like a yellow, crusted ulcer
Luckily, infections can be managed when they are caught early, appropriate antibiotics are given, and surgical procedures are performed if necessary. The following are some tips to help you prevent soft tissue infections.
If you get scratched or suffer from a puncture wound on the skin:
- Begin by stemming the flow of blood and wash the wound with soap and water.
- Keep the wound clean and free of foreign materials such as hair and dirt.
- Dress the wound with sterile bandages and wipes.
- Consult a doctor for further cleaning and treatments.
If left untreated, the infection can enter the bloodstream and be carried to other parts of the body. Bone infections are very serious, and depending on severity, can cause irreversible damage and necrosis (death) of bone cells. Bone infections require treatment by your doctor. Antibiotics will be prescribed. The infection may need to be surgically drained or require that the dead cells be cut away from healthy bone. In the most severe cases, amputation may be the only option.
Joint infections are treated in much the same way as bone infections. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics and he or she may need to surgically drain the infection if severe enough. In the more extreme cases, repeated draining or aspiration of the joint may be necessary. In others, the removal of infected joint cells may be required.
When taking antibiotics, it is important to follow your doctor’s recommendation exactly.
If you do not finish the round of antibiotics, it is easier to develop antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance can have severe consequences if you get another infection and the antibiotics you built a resistance to do not work to treat it.
While small cuts or wounds to the skin may seem insignificant, if you have an autoimmune disease, serious infections can result. The most important thing is to vigilantly treat the infection and follow your doctor’s directions.