A skin abscess is a build up of pus in or on the skin.
Exams and Tests
Your health care provider can diagnose the problem by looking at the affected area. The drainage from the sore may be sent to the lab for a culture. This can help identify the cause of the infection.
You can apply moist heat (such as warm compresses) to help the abscess drain and heal faster. DO NOT push and squeeze on the abscess.
The health care provider may cut open the abscess and drain it.
- Numbing medicine will be put on your skin.
- Packing material may be left in wound to help it heal.
You may need to take antibiotics by mouth to control the infection.
Most skin abscesses can be cured with proper treatment. Infections caused by methicillin-resistant staph aureus (MRSA) are do not respond to regular antibiotics and need special medicines.
- Spread of infection in the same area
- Spread of the infection in the blood and throughout the body
- Tissue death (gangrene)
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have any signs of skin infection, including:
- Drainage of any kind
Talk to your health care provider if you develop new symptoms during or after treatment for a skin abscess.
Keep the skin around minor wounds clean and dry to prevent infection. Call your health care provider if you notice signs of infection. Take care of minor infections promptly.
Abscess - skin; Cutaneous abscess; Subcutaneous abscess
Pasternack MS, Swartz MN. Cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis, and subcutaneous tissue infections. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds.Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases
Daum RS.Staphylococcus aureusPrinciples and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases.
Update Date 11/20/2012
Updated by: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.