Description of an abscess

An abscess is a tender mass that is usually surrounded by pink or red discoloration of the skin. The middle is filled with pus and debris. It is imperative to get treatment early as most will not improve unless you seek care as the infection can spread and lead to a fever. (See abscess picture above.)Abscesses are painful to touch and can appear anywhere on your body. They are most commonly found in armpits, around the anus and vagina, near you coccyx, around a tooth and in the groin region. Areas around hair follicles can be inflamed and lead to the development of abscesses, also called a boil (furuncle).Unfortunately, the cure for an abscess requires more than antibiotics. It will likely have to be opened and drained by a doctor through a process called incision and drainage in order to improve recovery.

Causes of an Abscess

Abscess are caused via an inflammatory response from your body’s defenses to try to kill germs that get under the skin or in the oil (sebaceous) glands.When the body’s immune system begins to fight off the infection, the abscess becomes filled with pus which includes dead cells, bacteria, and debris. This process expands and inflames the surrounding follicles and tissue, causing pain. People with weakened immune systems are more prone to getting abscesses.

Treatment for an Abscess

For small abscesses of half an inch or less, you can apply a warm compress to the area for up to 30 minutes to help relieve some pain.Do not attempt to drain by pressing on the abscess as this can push the infection into other tissues.Image Source: Public Domain. By: Bruno Coignard, MD, Jeff Hagerman M.H.S. CDC
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