A skin abscess is a collection of pus and infected material in or on the skin.
Abscess - skin; Cutaneous abscess; Subcutaneous abscess
Skin abscesses are fairly common. They occur when an infection causes pus and infected material to collect in the skin.
Skin abscesses may occur after:
Skin abscesses may occur anywhere on the body. They affect people of all ages.
Your doctor can diagnose the condition based on the appearance of the area. A culture or examination of any drainage from the lesion may help identify what organism is causing it.
Moist heat (such as warm compresses) may speed healing and may help a skin abscess drain. DO NOT push and squeeze on the abscess.
The doctor may cut open and drain the abscess, after placing some numbing medicine in the area. Packing material may be left in wound to help it heal and not close over again..
Antibiotics are given by mouth to control the infection.
Most skin abscesses can be cured with proper treatment. More often now, the bacteria does not respond to regular antibiotics. This is called methicillin-resistant staph aureus (MRSA).
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have any signs of skin infection, including:
Also call for an appointment if you develop new symptoms during or after treatment for a skin abscess.
Prevent and watch for bacterial infections. Keep the skin around minor wounds clean and dry. Consult the health care provider if you develop signs of infection. Treat minor infections promptly.
Pasternack MS, Swartz MN. Cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis, and subcutaneous tissue infections. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 90.
Lowell GS, Daum RS. Staphylococcus aureus. In: Long SS, ed. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 115.