How to treat an Abscess

What is an abscess?

An abscess is painful and warm to the touch and can show up anywhere on your body. It is a tender mass surrounded by a colored area from pink to deep red. Usually abscesses are easy to see and feel by touching. The middle of an abscess is filled with pus and debris. An abscess kind of looks like a giant pimple except it is much harder to treat.

What can cause abscesses?

Abscesses are usually caused when sweat glands or oil glands are blocked or there is an inflammation of the hair follicles. Sometimes minor breaks and punctures of the skin can cause abscesses, abscesses caused by puncture wounds are usually seen in intravenous drug users. What happens to cause an abscess is germs get under the skin or into glands and cause an inflammatory response from your body’s immune system which is trying to kill the germs. The middle of the abscess begins to liquefy and contains dead cells, bacteria and other debris. This area begins to expand and creates tension under the skin which then causes more inflammation of the surrounding area. This can end up causing you a lot of pain.

What are some the symptoms of an abscess?

  • Abscesses are pretty hard to miss because they will slowly become so large they can’t go unnoticed. The spot of the abscess will be red or pink, hot to the touch and tender. An abscess may also be painful.
  • Some abscesses progress or grow larger and they may come to a head to where you can see the material inside and they could rupture
  • Most abscesses will get worse if not treated and this kind of infection can spread to the tissues under the skin and even into the bloodstream
  • If the infection spreads into deeper tissue you may begin to feel feverish and sickly.

So how do you treat an abscess?

Unlike other infections of the skin or in general, antibiotics will usually not cure an abscess. Most of the time an abscess must be cut open and drained in order for it to improve or go away. Sometimes the drainage of pus and debris happens on its own but most of the time it must be opened by a doctor during a procedure called incision and drainage.

If you want to treat an abscess at home be very careful. The only way you should treat an abscess yourself is if:

  • The abscess is small. A small abscess is an abscess that is less than a half inch across.
  • Really all you can and should do at home is apply warm compresses and hope it goes down on its own.
  • Don’t try to drain the abscess by pressing on it. This can push the infected material, pus and bacteria deeper into tissues.
  • Do not stick a needle or any other sharp object into the abscess center because you could end up injuring a blood vessel or causing the infection to spread.

If you have an abscess your best bet is to seek medical care. You should most definitely seek medical care to treat an abscess if:

  • It is more than a half-inch across
  • The abscess continues getting bigger
  • You have a red streak going away from the abscess
  • You have a fever
  • Have a facial abscess

Usually the only method to treat an abscess is to go to a doctor and have it cut open and drained. This process is not usually severely painful but it is fairly gross. Imagine popping a giant pimple. Either way it is better than dealing with more severe problems due to an abscess.

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