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    Abscess

    An abscess is a collection of pus in any part of the body that, in most cases, causes swelling and inflammation around it.

    Causes

    Abscesses occur when an area of tissue becomes infected and the body's immune system tries to fight it. White blood cells move through the walls of the blood vessels into the area of the infection and collect in the damaged tissue. During this process, pus forms. Pus is the buildup of fluid, living and dead white blood cells, dead tissue, and bacteria or other foreign substances.

    Abscesses can form in almost any part of the body. The skin, under the skin, and the teeth are the most common sites. Abscesses may be caused by bacteria, parasites, and foreign substances.

    Abscesses in the skin are easy to see. They are red, raised, and painful. Abscesses in other areas of the body may not beseen, but they may cause organ damage.

    Types of abscesses include:

    • Abdominal abscess
    • Amebic liver abscess
    • Anorectal abscess
    • Bartholin's abscess
    • Brain abscess
    • Epidural abscess
    • Peritonsillar abscess
    • Pyogenic liver abscess
    • Skin abscess
    • Spinal cord abscess
    • Subcutaneous abscess
    • Tooth abscess

    Exams and Tests

    Often, a sample of fluid will be taken from the abscess and tested to see whattype of germis causing the problem.

    Treatment

    Treatment varies, but often surgery, antibiotics, or both are needed.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if you think that you may have any type of abscess.

    Prevention

    Preventing abscesses depends on where they develop. For example, good hygiene can help prevent skin abscesses. Dental hygiene and routine care will prevent tooth abscesses.

    References

    Bolognia J. Infections, hyper- and hypopigmentation, regional dermatology, and distinctive lesions in black skin. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2011:chap 449.

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            Tests for Abscess

            Review Date: 9/2/2012

            Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

            The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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            St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
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