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Abscess - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Published on Dec 23, 2021 and last reviewed on Mar 17, 2023   -  5 min read


When the body gets infected, the white blood cells fight against these infections, and the remnants of damaged tissue and germs form an abscess. To know more about it in detail, read the below article for more.

Abscess - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention


The skin surrounded by a pink to a deep red-colored mass of tissue that feels painful and warm on touching is known as an abscess. It is mostly caused by infections and could easily be felt when touched. The tissue mass could be filled with pus, bacteria, and debris. The abscess could develop on any place in the body, but the common sites are:

  • Armpits (axillae).

  • The base of the spine (pilonidal abscess).

  • In the anus and vaginal areas (Bartholin gland abscess).

  • When the hair follicle becomes inflamed, it can lead to the formation of an abscess, known as boil (furuncle).

  • Around the tooth (dental abscess).

  • Groin area.

An abscess cannot be cured only with antibiotics, so do not consider it like other infections. Normally, an abscess needs an open-up to drain the pus in order to improve, but in some cases, it drains on its own. A warm compress may help it to open up, or else an incision and drainage procedure helps to drain the abscess, which has to be done only by the doctor.

What Are the Causes of an Abscess?

When we undergo any minor trauma, small tears or cuts, or inflammation, bacteria will try to enter the skin. An abscess is formed when our body starts to fight against these foreign bodies and tries to kill the germs. In addition, when there is any obstruction in the sweat gland, hair follicle, or a pre-existing cyst, it could also lead to an abscess. The center of the abscess then liquefies and starts to grow, followed by creating tension under the skin with further inflammation on the surrounding tissues. This resulting pressure and inflammation cause pain.

Only people with weak immune systems are more prone to develop an abscess, and those with any of the following are at increased risk of developing a severe abscess. They are:

What Are the Symptoms of Abscess?

The following are the clinical manifestations of an abscess:

  • The area where the abscess is present appears to be painful, red, compressible, and warm to the touch.

  • When the abscess continues to progress, they point towards head up, so the material inside will be seen, which is spontaneous to rupture.

  • Most of the abscess will continue to get worse when it is left untreated, and it can spread to the tissues that are present under the skin, which may enter the bloodstream.

  • When the infection spreads deep into the tissues, then there are chances of feeling feverish.

How Is Abscess Diagnosed?

When you reach your doctor, he might ask about your medical history (previous and present medical history), from when you had an abscess, about the medicines you took to control the pain, or if you had any fever along with an abscess. Also, he/she might ask for the medications you are taking currently and if you are allergic to any other medications.

Then the doctor will start to examine the abscess and its surrounding areas. If the abscess is present in your anal area, the doctor will suggest a rectal examination, and in case an arm or leg is involved, lymph nodes under the arm and groin area will be felt by the doctor.

How Can Abscess Be Treated?

Based on the size of the abscess, we could decide if it needs any medical intervention or not. Go through the below-mentioned points to gain knowledge about when a medically supervised treatment is needed.

Home Remedies - Some home remedies could also help with abscesses. Let's see the Do’s and Don'ts detailed below.


  • When the abscess is small, that is, less than 1 centimeter or less than half-inch, a hot or warm compress is applied to that area for 30 minutes daily.


  • If there is an abscess, the person should not blindly prick and squeeze it because the infection can spread to deeper tissues.

  • Avoid using any needles or sharp instruments to prick the abscess center as it may injure any blood vessel present.

Medical Treatment - When the abscess is above 1 centimeter, the doctor may open and drain the pus. At first, the doctor numbs the area around the abscess with a local anesthetic. This step makes the patient feel almost painless during the procedure. Then the area is applied with antiseptic solutions, and sterile gauze is placed above it. The doctor then makes a small incision above the abscess to drain the pus and debris. Once it has drained, the doctor keeps some packing inside the open wound and allows it to be there for a day or two for the infection to completely drain. A bandage is placed above the packing, and home care instructions will be given. Most people will feel the difference immediately after the abscess is drained, but if still there is pain, painkillers will be provided for the next 1 to 2 days. Antibiotics are allowed only when prescribed by doctors.

Follow-Up - The doctor will instruct the patient on how to remove the packing carefully by themselves. The best way to do this is by soaking or flushing after 2 days. Also, make sure to attend all the follow-up appointments without fail, and it is important to report to the doctor when there is any fever, swelling, redness, or increased pain.

How Can Abscess Be Prevented?

The abscess could be prevented when people follow good personal hygiene. It is important to wash the skin with mild soap and water regularly. Also, avoid making small cuts while shaving or waxing the underarms and pubic area. When there is some debris in the wound or any tear or cut that is caused by a human bite, insect, or animal, then immediate medical attention is needed.


The abscess should be taken care of and should not be left untreated. Once it is medically treated, it should start to heal, and pain should subside immediately or within a day. The wound care instructions such as wound packing, washing, bandaging, or soaking should be done for a week as instructed by the doctor. Check if the abscess has drained completely after 2 weeks and if not, reach the doctor because all sores will take only around 10 to 14 days to heal.

Last reviewed at:
17 Mar 2023  -  5 min read




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