Skin Abscess Causes symptoms Diagnosis and Treatment

Skin Abscess Causes Symptoms Diagnosis and Treatment

Abscess Overview :

A skin abscess is a tender mass generally surrounded by a colored area from pink to deep red. Abscesses are often easy to feel by touching. The vast majority of them are caused by infections. Inside, they are full of pus, bacteria, and debris. 

    Painful and warm to the touch, abscesses can show up in any place on your body. The most common sites on the skin in your armpits (axillae), areas around your anus and vagina (Bartholin gland abscess), the base of your spine (pilonidal abscess), around a tooth (dental abscess), and in your groin. Inflammation around a hair follicle can also lead to the formation of an abscess, which is called a boil (furuncle).

What is an abscess?

       An abscess is the body’s way of trying to heal from an infection. Abscesses form after bacteria, fungi, or other germs enter the body — usually through an open wound like a cut — and cause an infection.

An abscess might appear on the skin, under the skin, in a tooth, or even deep inside the body. On top of the skin, an abscess may look like an unhealed wound or a pimple. Underneath the skin, it may create a swollen bump. A skin abscess might hurt and feel warm when you touch it

It’s easier to tell if you have a skin abscess because you can see and touch it. But when someone gets an abscess in another part of the body, there will still be clues that something is wrong. With a tooth abscess, for example, people will feel pain even though they can’t see the abscess.

Causes of abscess : 

Most abscesses are caused by a bacterial infection.

When bacteria enter your body, your immune system sends infection-fighting white blood cells to the affected area.

As the white blood cells attack the bacteria, some nearby tissue dies, creating a hole that then fills with pus to form an abscess. The pus contains a mixture of dead tissue, white blood cells, and bacteria.

Internal abscesses often develop as a complication of an existing condition, such as an infection elsewhere in your body. For example, if your appendix bursts as a result of appendicitis, bacteria can spread inside your tummy (abdomen) and cause an abscess to form.

Diagnosing an abscess :

One small boil isn’t usually a cause for concern. You can often treat it at home. However, if you have a boil and any of the following apply to you, see your doctor as soon as possible:

  • You’re a child.
  • You’re over the age of 65.
  • You have a weakened immune system or you were recently hospitalized.
  • You have received an organ transplant.
  • You’re currently on chemotherapy or you recently received chemotherapy.
  • Your skin abscess is on your face or spine. If left untreated, the abscess may spread to your brain or spinal cord.
  • The abscess is large and hasn’t healed within two weeks, and you also have a fever.
  • The abscess appears to be spreading to other parts of your body.
  • The abscess is becoming more painful or is throbbing.
  • Your limbs are swollen.
  • Your skin around the abscess is swollen or extremely red.
  • Your doctor will review your medical history and perform a physical examination to visually inspect the abscess. A complete physical examination allows your doctor to tell if an injury or ingrown hair is the cause of the abscess.

Your doctor may also take a culture or a small amount of fluid from the abscess to test for the presence of bacteria. No other testing methods are necessary to diagnose an abscess.

However, if you’ve had reoccurring skin abscesses and your doctor feels that an underlying medical condition may be the cause, they may take a blood or urine sample.

You can book an appointment with a primary care doctor in your area using our Healthline FindCare tool.

Abscess Symptoms :

       A painful, compressible mass that is red, warm to the touch, and tender.

As an abscess progresses, it may “point” and come to a head. Pustular drainage and spontaneous rupture may occur.

Most abscesses will continue to worsen without care and proper incision and drainage. The infection can potentially spread to deeper tissues and even into the bloodstream.

If the infection spreads, fever, nausea, vomiting, increasing pain, and increasing skin redness may develop.

Abscess Treatment

Small abscesses can be treated at home with a warm compress to relieve pain and promote drainage. A larger abscess may need to be drained at the doctor’s office to both relieve the pain and treat the infection.

Depending on the cause of an abscess, a doctor may consider whether or not an antibiotic is needed.6

On the other hand, antibiotics are customarily prescribed to persons who have a weakened immune system or are experiencing whole-body symptoms like fever.7 In such cases, a doctor may take a pus sample to better evaluate the cause and ensure that the bacteria is not drug-resistant.

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