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Abscess (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care for a Skin Abscess

A skin abscess will sometimes rupture and drain spontaneously at home without any further complications. However, in some instances, further evaluation by a doctor is necessary to prevent the progression and complications associated with a continuing infection. Consult a doctor if any of the following scenarios occurs with an abscess:

  • The sore is larger than 1 cm or ½ inch across.
  • The sore fails to heal or it continues to enlarge and becomes more painful.
  • The person has an underlying illness such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, sickle cell disease, or peripheral vascular disease.
  • The person is an IV drug abuser.
  • The person is on steroid therapy, chemotherapy, other drugs that suppress the immune system, or dialysis.
  • The sore is located at the top of the buttock crease, or it is on or near the rectal or groin area.
  • The person has a fever of 100.4 F (38 C) or higher.
  • There is a concern that there is foreign material within a wound or under the skin.
  • The person is pregnant.
  • The abscess gets better but then returns.

Go to a hospital's emergency department if any of these conditions occur with an abscess:

  • Fever of 102 F (38.9 C) or higher, or vomiting, especially if the person has a chronic disease or is on steroids, chemotherapy or other immunosuppressive medications, or dialysis
  • There is a spreading red streak on the skin originating from the abscess.
  • Any facial abscess larger than 1 cm or ½ inch across
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/24/2015

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