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    Skin abscess

    Abscess - skin; Cutaneous abscess; Subcutaneous abscess

    A skin abscess is abuild upof pus in or on the skin.


    Skin abscesses are common. They occur when an infection causes pusto collect in the skin.

    Skin abscesses may occur after:

    • A bacterial infection (often staphylococcus)
    • A minor wound or injury
    • Boils
    • Folliculitis

    A skin abscess may occur anywhere on the body. The problem affects people of all ages.


    Symptoms may include:

    • Fever or chills, in some cases
    • Local swelling around the infected spot
    • Hard of tissue (induration)
    • Skin lesion that may be an open or closed sore, or domed nodule
    • Redness, tenderness, and warmth in the area
    • Fluid drainage

    Exams and Tests

    Your health care provider can diagnose the problem by looking at the affected area. The drainage from the sore may be sent to the lab for a culture. This can help identify the cause of the infection.


    You can apply moist heat (such as warm compresses) to help the abscess drain and heal faster.DO NOT push and squeeze on the abscess.

    Thehealth care providermay cut openthe abscess and drain it.

    • Numbing medicine will be put on your skin.
    • Packing material may be left in wound to help it heal.

    You may need to take antibiotics by mouth to control the infection.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    Most skin abscesses can be cured with proper treatment. Infections caused by methicillin-resistant staph aureus (MRSA) are do not respond to regular antibiotics and need special medicines.

    Possible Complications

    • Spread of infection in the same area
    • Spread of the infection in the blood andthroughout the body
    • Tissue death (gangrene)

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if you have any signs of skin infection, including:

    • Drainage of any kind
    • Fever
    • Pain
    • Redness
    • Swelling

    Talk to your health care provider ifyou develop new symptoms during or after treatment for a skin abscess.


    Keep the skin around minor wounds clean and dry to prevent infection. Call your health care provider if you notice signs of infection. Take care ofminor infections promptly.


    Pasternack MS, Swartz MN. Cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis, and subcutaneous tissue infections. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 90.

    Daum RS. Staphylococcus aureus. In: Long SS, ed. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 115.


    • Skin layers


      • Skin layers


      A Closer Look

        Talking to your MD

          Self Care

            Tests for Skin abscess

            Review Date: 11/20/2012

            Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

            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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