St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia



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


    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 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.


    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.


    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.


          Self Care

            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.

            A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.

            Back  |  Top
            About Us
            Contact Us
            Locations & Directions
            Quality Reports
            Annual Reports
            Honors & Awards
            Community Health Needs

            Brain & Spine
            Sleep Medicine
            Urgent Care
            Women's Services
            All Services
            Patients & Visitors
            Locations & Directions
            Find a Physician
            Tour St. Luke's
            Patient & Visitor Information
            Contact Us
            Payment Options
            Financial Assistance
            Send a Card
            Mammogram Appointments
            Health Tools
            My Personal Health
            Spirit of Women
            Health Information & Tools
            Clinical Trials
            Health Risk Assessments
            Employer Programs -
            Passport to Wellness

            Classes & Events
            Classes & Events
            Spirit of Women
            Donate & Volunteer
            Giving Opportunities
            Physicians & Employees
            For Physicians
            Remote Access
            Medical Residency Information
            Pharmacy Residency Information
            Physician CPOE Training
            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
            Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile