Printer Friendly VersionEmail A FriendAdd ThisIncrease Text SizeDecrease Text Size

Skin abscess

 

Definition

A skin abscess is a collection of pus and infected material in or on the skin.

Alternative Names

Abscess - skin; Cutaneous abscess; Subcutaneous abscess

Causes

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:

  • A bacterial infection (often staphylococcus)
  • A minor wound or injury
  • Boils
  • Folliculitis

Skin abscesses may occur anywhere on the body. They affect people of all ages.

Symptoms
  • Fever or chills, in some cases
  • Local swelling, hardening of tissue (induration)
  • Skin lesion
    • Open or closed sore, domed nodule
    • Red
    • May drain fluid
  • Tender and warm affected area
Signs and tests

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.

Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

Most skin abscesses can be cured with proper treatment.

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have any signs of skin infection, including:

  • Drainage of any kind
  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling

Also call for an appointment if you develop new symptoms during or after treatment for a skin abscess.

Complications
  • Prevention of the proper functioning of nearby tissues
  • Spread of infection around the same area or throughout the body
  • Spread of infection through the bloodstream, causing:
  • Tissue death (gangrene)
Treatments

The goal of treatment is to cure the infection. The doctor may cut and drain the abscess to clean the area and control the infection. Antibiotics are given by mouth to control the infection.

Heat (such as warm compresses) may speed healing, reduce inflammation, and make the area feel better. Raise the affected part to reduce swelling and inflammation.

Prevention

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.


Review Date: 10/3/2008
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2009 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
MAIMONIDES
MEDICAL CENTER


Home Page
Why Choose Us
Donations
Website Terms of Use
PATIENT
INFORMATION


Visitor & Patient Info
Patient Portal
We Speak Your Language
Patient Privacy
Contact Us
KEY
INFORMATION


Find a Physician
Medical Services
Maimonides In the News
Directions & Parking
FOR HEALTH
PROFESSIONALS


Medical Education
Career Opportunities
Nurses & Physicians
Staff Intranet Access
Maimonides Medical Center    |    4802 Tenth Avenue    |    Brooklyn, NY 11219    |    718.283.6000    |