A skin abscess is a build up of pus in or on the skin.
Skin abscesses are common. They occur when an infection causes pus to collect in the skin.
Skin abscesses may occur after:
A skin abscess may occur anywhere on the body. The problem affects people of all ages.
Symptoms may include:
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.
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.
Call your health care provider if you have any signs of skin infection, including:
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. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 90.
Daum RS. Staphylococcus aureus. In: Long SS, ed. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 115.
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.
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