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Skin Abscess Overview

Skin Abscess Overview

A skin abscess is a localized collection of pus that generally develops in response to infection or to the presence of other foreign materials under the skin. An abscess is typically painful, and it appears as a swollen area that is warm to the touch. The skin surrounding an abscess typically appears pink or red.

Abscesses can develop in many parts of the body, but they usually involve the skin surface. Skin abscesses are often referred to as boils. Common sites affected include the armpits, groin, rectal area (perirectal abscess), the external vaginal area (Bartholin's abscess), and along the tailbone (pilonidal abscess). Inflammation surrounding hair follicles or sweat glands can lead to the formation of abscesses, as well. Abscesses can also affect the brain, kidneys, liver (hepatic abscess), lungs, breast, neck, teeth (dental abscess), and tonsils (peritonsillar abscess).

Unlike other infections, antibiotics alone will not typically cure a skin abscess. In general, abscesses must open and drain to improve. Although sometimes an abscess will open and drain spontaneously, it often needs to be lanced (incision and drainage) by a health-care provider. Certain abscesses may require drainage in an operating room.

Picture of Skin Abscess
Picture of Skin Abscess
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/9/2014

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Peritonsillar Abscess »

Peritonsillar abscess (PTA) is a common infection of the head and neck region.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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