Abscess

ExitCare ImageAn abscess is an infected area that contains a collection of pus and debris. It can occur in almost any part of the body. An abscess is also known as a furuncle or boil.

CAUSES

An abscess occurs when tissue gets infected. This can occur from blockage of oil or sweat glands, infection of hair follicles, or a minor injury to the skin. As the body tries to fight the infection, pus collects in the area and creates pressure under the skin. This pressure causes pain. People with weakened immune systems have difficulty fighting infections and get certain abscesses more often.

SYMPTOMS

Usually an abscess develops on the skin and becomes a painful mass that is red, warm, and tender. If the abscess forms under the skin, you may feel a moveable soft area under the skin. Some abscesses break open (rupture) on their own, but most will continue to get worse without care. The infection can spread deeper into the body and eventually into the bloodstream, causing you to feel ill.

DIAGNOSIS

Your caregiver will take your medical history and perform a physical exam. A sample of fluid may also be taken from the abscess to determine what is causing your infection.

TREATMENT

Your caregiver may prescribe antibiotic medicines to fight the infection. However, taking antibiotics alone usually does not cure an abscess. Your caregiver may need to make a small cut (incision) in the abscess to drain the pus. In some cases, gauze is packed into the abscess to reduce pain and to continue draining the area.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

  • If you were prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Finish them even if you start to feel better.

  • If gauze is used, follow your caregiver's directions for changing the gauze.

  • To avoid spreading the infection:

  • Keep your draining abscess covered with a bandage.

  • Wash your hands well.

  • Do not share personal care items, towels, or whirlpools with others.

  • Avoid skin contact with others.

  • Keep your skin and clothes clean around the abscess.

  • Keep all follow-up appointments as directed by your caregiver.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have increased pain, swelling, redness, fluid drainage, or bleeding.

  • You have muscle aches, chills, or a general ill feeling.

  • You have a fever.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.