An 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 middle of an abscess is full of pus and debris.
Abscesses are caused by obstruction of oil glands or sweat glands, inflammation of hair follicles, or minor breaks and punctures of the skin. Germs get under the skin or into these glands, which causes an inflammatory response as your body's defenses try to kill these germs.
The middle of the abscess liquefies and contains dead cells, bacteria, and other debris. This area begins to grow, creating tension under the skin and further inflammation of the surrounding tissues. Pressure and inflammation cause the pain.
- Most often, an abscess becomes a painful, compressible mass that is red, warm to touch, and tender.
- As some abscesses progress, they may point and come to a head so you can see the material inside and then spontaneously open.
- Most will continue to get worse without care. The infection can spread to the tissues under the skin and even into the bloodstream.
- If the infection spreads into deeper tissue, you may develop a fever and begin to feel ill.
- If the abscess is small, applying warm compresses to the area for about 30 minutes 4 times daily can help.
- Do not attempt to drain the abscess by pressing on it. This can push the infected material into the deeper tissues.
- Do not stick a needle or other sharp instrument into the abscess center because you may injure an underlying blood vessel or cause the infection to spread.
- The doctor may open and drain the abscess.
- The area around the abscess will be numbed with medication.
- You may be given some type of sedative if the abscess is large.
- Most people feel better immediately after the abscess is drained.
- Maintain good personal hygiene by washing your skin with soap and water regularly.
Once treated, the abscess should heal. The pain often improves immediately and subsides more each day. All sores should heal in 10-14 days.