One of the ways by which your body heals from an infection is through the formation of an abscess. Abscesses form due to bacteria, fungi, or other germs entering the body. They usually enter through an open wound such as a cut and cause an infection.
An abscess is a painful collection of pus that appears either within or just below the surface of the skin. Abscesses can develop anywhere in the body but sometimes develop in areas where hair is present, such as the armpits and pubic area.
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.
What Causes an abscess?
Most abscesses are caused by a bacterial infection. It occurs when the body is fighting off an infection. Abscess can develop when germs get into the body through an opening in the skin such as an insect sting. When germs 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. Some of these white blood cells also end up in pus, which also includes stuff like dead skin and germs. The body considers pus garbage and will try to get rid of it. The pus then collects but can’t drain out, forming painful abscesses. Some abscesses also occurs due to an irritant like an injected medication that was not completely absorbed.
What Are the signs & symptoms of abscesses?
Abscesses usually are red, swollen, and warm to the touch, and might leak fluid. The area can be painful and tender. You may also have other symptoms of an infection, such as fever and chills. They can develop on top of the skin, under the skin or even deep inside the body. It’s more difficult to identify an abscess inside the body, but signs include:
- pain in the affected area
- generally feeling unwell
Treatment of abscesses
A small skin abscess may drain naturally, or simply dry up and disappear without any treatment. Besides, most abscesses can be managed at home. If you think you have a skin abscess, avoid touching, pushing, popping, or squeezing it. Because, these can spread the infection inside the body, making things worse.
Prevent the spread of infection by always washing your hands well before and after touching the abscess. Also, do not share clothes, towels, washcloths, sheets, or anything else that may have touched the abscess.
Additionally, try using a warm compress to see if that opens up the abscess so it can drain. Wet a washcloth with warm not hot water and place it over the abscess for several minutes. Do this a few times a day.
If the it opens on its own and drains, and the infection seems to clear up in a couple of days, your body should heal on its own. If it doesn’t, it’s time to seek medical treatment.
However, larger abscesses may require treatment with antibiotics to clear the infection, and the pus may need to be drain. This will usually be done either by inserting a needle through your skin or by making a small incision in the skin over the abscess.
Preventing a skin abscess
Good hygiene is the best way to avoid infection. Keep cuts and wounds clean, dry, and covered to protect them from germs. Also, don’t share clothing, towels, razors, or bed linens with anyone else. When these items get dirty, wash them separately in very hot water.
Wash your hands well and often using plain soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time. It’s good to use alcohol-based instant hand sanitizers or wipes if you’re not near any soap and water.