Abscess is a collection of pus usually caused by bacterial infection. It is a swelling filled with pus and can develop in any part of the body either inside or outside. An abscess can be very small to very large. The common symptoms are swollen and painful pustules with a burning sensation when touched, feeling unwell with probable high fever or chill which is a sign of infection. If it appears on the skin, it is usually not so much painful and will disappear by itself. It is more risky inside the body and patients need appropriate treatment.
Two types of abscess categorized by the location include:
- External abscess is the one developed under the skin. Inflammation surrounding hair follicles can lead to the formation of abscesses. Symptoms include swollen, reddened, painful skin and sometimes burning sensation. Women during lactation period can also develop breast abscesses. Women in general can also develop Bartholin’s abscess or abscess that occurs on either side of the opening of the vagina.
- Internal abscess is the one developed inside the body or the space between internal organs. Symptoms are shown depending on the location of the abscess. Internal abscesses are often caused by other illness which results in the formation of abscess such as liver infection causing liver abscess, gum and tooth infection causing gum and tooth abscess, etc.
If the abscess is small and not so painful, patient can take care of it at home. It will get better and disappear by itself. Try not to squeeze or pierce it to drain fluid inside as it might cause infection on the surrounding membranes or blood vessel damage.
If it is large or severely painful, please see a doctor. The doctor will administer antibiotics for treatment. In some cases, an incision might be needed for drainage. A treatment option depends on severity, location, and doctor’s discretion.
Treatment success depends on many factors, please discuss with your doctor if you have any questions.
What if it is left untreated?
Bacteria in the pus could spread to the bloodstream, bone, or surrounding membranes. The abscess could break and disease spreads to surrounding membranes causing necrosis or gangrene.