Abscess: symptoms, causes, photos and treatment.


A skin abscess is a lumpy, walled collection of pus that appears within or just below the surface of the skin. Abscesses are usually caused by a bacterial infection .

They usually appear on the back, chest, buttocks and certain areas of the face. Sometimes they develop in areas where there is hair, such as the armpits and pubic area.

A boil, sometimes called a boil, occurs when a hair follicle becomes infected and forms a small abscess. A carbuncle is defined as several pus-draining follicles, which combine to form a single infected mass.

Boils and carbuncles tend to appear on hairy areas of skin that have suffered minor trauma, sweat, or friction (for example, under the belt or where the skin has been irritated by shaving) .

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Symptoms of an abscess

An abscess looks like a small bump or pimple that can turn into an inflamed fluid-filled cyst. The skin around the abscess is usually sore and warm to the touch. In some cases, the abscess can be very hard and hard (hardened) .

Depending on the cause, an abscess may be accompanied by fever, nausea, or swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy).


Abscesses are most often caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus , which is usually found on the skin and inside the nose. It can enter the body through a cut, abrasion, perforation, or even an insect bite .

Other factors can increase the risk of S. aureus infection, including:

  • A chronic skin condition such as acne or eczema.
  • Diabetes
  • Weakened immune system
  • Close contact with an infected person
  • Poor hygiene

Another condition called folliculitis can cause an abscess to form in the hair follicle. The infection begins when hair becomes trapped below the surface and cannot pass through (a condition commonly called ingrown hair).

Folliculitis can be caused by shaving (especially in blacks) and swimming in a poorly chlorinated pool or hot tub .


The diagnosis is usually based on appearance alone. Although small abscesses can usually be treated at home, you should consider seeking medical attention if:

  • Development of an abscess on the face.
  • Development of multiple abscesses.
  • Abscesses that are worse or extremely painful
  • Abscesses larger than 2 inches
  • Abscesses that last more than two weeks.
  • Recurrent abscesses

Watch out

Small abscesses can be treated at home with a warm compress to relieve pain and improve drainage. A larger abscess may need to be drained in the doctor's office to relieve pain and cure the infection.

Depending on the cause of the abscess, your doctor may decide if an antibiotic is needed .

On the other hand, antibiotics are generally prescribed for people with weakened immune systems or bodily symptoms such as fever. In such cases, your doctor may take a sample of pus to better determine the cause and make sure the bacteria are not resistant to the drugs.

It is important not to drain the abscess at home, as this can make the infection worse. Always wash your hands after touching an abscess and clean everything that comes in contact with it, including clothing and compresses .


While abscesses cannot be completely avoided, there are some simple steps you can take to better prevent them:

  • Always wash your hands , ideally with an antibacterial cleanser.
  • Handle all cuts with care, keep clean, covered and dry until fully healed.
  • Don't share personal items like razors, towels, lipstick, or lip balm.
  • Avoid cuts when shaving the armpits or pubic area .
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