What is an abscess?
An abscess is a pocket of infection that often starts as a small bump felt under the skin surface that is tender to the touch. As the area fills with pus, bacteria, and skin debris, it can become very painful and may grow quite large, even baseball size, before it ruptures and drains.
The most common sites for skin abscesses are:
- In the area under your armpits
- Around your anus (perirectal abscess)
- At the base of your spine (pilonidal abscess)
- In your groin or buttocks
- On your back
When an abscess develops within an inflamed and irritated hair follicle, it is often referred to as a boil. If a cluster of boils develops in an area, it’s known as a carbuncle. Multiple subcutaneous cysts can also get infected.
Abscess Q & A
What causes the infection related to an abscess?
Most abscesses are caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which enters your body through a hair follicle or at the site of punctured or broken skin. Even a mosquito bite puncture is large enough for the bacteria to invade. The infection may damage layers of skin and underlying soft tissue leaving a patient with large wounds.
Abscesses can sometimes cause serious complications, which may include:
- Blood poisoning (sepsis)
- Gangrene or tissue death in the area of the abscess
- Non-healing wound at the site of the abscess
One of the most dangerous types of bacteria that cause abscesses is MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). MRSA is more difficult to treat because it’s resistant to the antibiotics normally prescribed for a soft tissue infection, and may require IV antibiotics and hospitalization.
Dr. George Mutafyan
How are abscesses treated?
Your Chicago Surgical Clinic surgeon designs your treatment based on the location, type, and size of your abscess. While your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to help eliminate the infection-causing bacteria, the only definitive treatment is to drain the material filling an abscess.
This is usually accomplished with an incision and drainage, during which your surgeon makes a small incision in the skin overlying the abscess. This allows the pus and other contents to drain. Certain abscesses may require a more extensive surgical procedure to repair the tissue damage caused by the infection, and to prevent a recurrence.
Hidradenitis suppurativa is a skin condition that causes numerous hair follicles to become infected throughout an area, such as under your arms or in the groin region. Tunnels under the skin can connect the affected follicles and fill with pus. Rather than a simple incision and drainage, your surgeon may choose to “unroof” the tunnels and remove the affected tissue.
For expert care if you have an abscess, call Chicago Surgical Clinic or schedule an appointment online today.