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Abscess (cont.)

What Specialists Treat Skin Abscesses?

A skin abscess may be treated by a primary care provider (PCP), such as a general practitioner, family medicine specialist, internist, or pediatrician. One may also be seen by an emergency medicine specialist in a hospital emergency department. If surgery is required, a general surgeon can treat an abscess. A dermatologist, who specializes in disorders of the skin, may also treat a skin abscess.

How Does a Doctor Diagnose a Skin Abscess?

The doctor will take a medical history and ask for information about the following:

  • How long the abscess has been present
  • If the patient recalls any injury to that area
  • What medicines the patient is taking and if there are any serious or chronic medical conditions
  • If the patient has any allergies
  • If the patient had a fever at home
  • The doctor will examine the abscess and surrounding areas. If it is near the anus or vagina, the doctor will perform a rectal or vaginal exam. If an arm or leg is involved, the doctor will feel for an enlarged lymph node either in the groin or under the arm.
  • Depending on the location and the extent of the abscess, the doctor may obtain wound cultures or blood tests and imaging studies, although these tests are often not needed.

Are There Home Remedies for a Skin Abscess?

  • If the abscess is small (less than 1 cm or less than ½ inch across), applying warm compresses to the area for about 30 minutes, four times daily may help.
  • Once the boil drains, it should heal on its own, though this may take several weeks.
  • Do not attempt to drain the abscess by pressing on it. This can push the infected material into the deeper tissues.
  • Do not stick a needle or other sharp instrument into the abscess because it may injure an underlying blood vessel or cause the infection to spread.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2017

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