Do you sometimes notice boils or bumps on your skin? Like your face? Or Lower back? Do they resemble pimples? But are they more painful and filled with pus?
This is a typical skin abscess, a bacterial infection that appears as bumps and boils filled with pus or fluid on your skin.
It mostly occurs on parts of the body where hair grows, such as under the arm, groin, or genitals.
A skin abscess may be mild, requiring little to no treatment before it heals on its own, or be so severe that it causes debilitating complications when left untreated.
What Is A Skin Abscess?
A skin abscess is also known as a boil or bump that appears on any part of the skin’s surface. This can either be within or below the surface.
This bump is usually caused by a bacterial infection and is full of pus or translucent fluid.
Skin abscesses may appear on any part of the body, but it is most common on the face, hands, feet, chest, lower back, and buttocks.
However, it can also occur in places of hair growth, such as under the arm, groin, or genitals.
There are different skin abscesses.
Some are typically harmless and go on their own without treatment, or with the use of over-the-counter medications and cream to speed up the healing process.
Others are more severe and require a more complicated process involving laceration or drainage.
Some skin abscesses, when left untreated, can lead to life-threatening complications.
Symptoms of a skin abscess include;
- Painful but squeezable spots on the skin, similar to that of an open sore or large pimple
- Tenderness, redness and warmth around the area of the skin where the abscess appears
- Firm and hardened outer layer of affected area that seems squishy
- Pus draining from the bump or boil
- Swelling of infected area
- Fever or chills in serious cases
- Pointy opening at the center
Causes Of A Skin Abscess
A skin abscess often occurs because of a bacterial infection, when staphylococcal bacteria enter the body.
Some are, however, caused by viruses, fungi, or parasites in rare cases. Common causes of a skin abscess are;
This is one of the most common causes of a skin abscess.
It occurs because of bacterial infection when Staphylococcus aureus bacteria enter the body through a hair follicle, punctured or open part of the skin.
This can be because of injuries, wounds, or cuts that break the skin.
Bacterial infections are fast increasing because of their contamination of close contact with infected persons.
You are susceptible to this bacterial infection if you have any of the following;
- Chronic skin infections like acne or eczema
- Poor and unhealthy hygiene habits
- Weakened immune system. This places you at a higher risk of infections.
- Close contact with someone who has staph infections, this may also include sexual contact. Recent studies show bacterial infections as one of the most reported cases of infections at the hospital.
Infected Hair Follicle
Folliculitis is an infected hair follicle that may cause a skin abscess in follicles.
Hair follicles contain the root of the hair and can become infected if the hair within the follicles is trapped and unable to properly break through the skin.
Activities such as shaving or spending time in an inappropriately chlorinated pool or hot tub may cause hair to be trapped in the follicle.
These trapped hairs become ingrown and lead to an infection or skin abscess.
Although a typical skin abscess is sometimes caused by bacteria or hair follicles, you are likely to have a higher risk of developing this infection through either of these conditions.
- Compromised immune system
- Usage of drugs intravenously
How To Identify A Skin Abscess
It is easier to identify a skin abscess as long as the signs are associated with symptoms.
One of the most common identification methods involves the area of occurrence and the appearance on the skin.
A skin abscess is like a pimple. It often appears as a bump or boil.
However, it may swell and grow over time and be filled with pus or fluid. You may also notice some sensitivity in the affected spot. It is usually red, tender to touch.
Other signs include;
- Fever and chills, mostly in severe cases
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swelling and fluid drainage from the supposed abscess
- Lesions on the skin
- Inflammation in the affected skin area
Besides these, you should also watch out for pain and discomfort.
You may also gently massage the abscess with a warm compress to see if it recedes and goes away on its own.
But if it does not heal, visit your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Recurrence Of Skin Abscess In The Same Spot
Skin abscesses form on any part of the body and, yes, they may reoccur. But this depends on the cause and treatment.
A properly treated and eliminated infection will not return, but only if you follow all instructions during and after treatment.
Sometimes when a skin abscess reoccurs, it is not always a result of a new infection.
It may develop from previous wounds, insect bites, pimples, and blocked oil glands. An inadequately treated skin abscess may form on the same spot or elsewhere.
According to Healthline, you may also experience a recurrence after treatment if you develop a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection or other bacterial infection.
These are contagious infections that may be contacted directly by an infected person or a hospital.
This can be treated through the drainage procedure and the prescription of antibiotics.
Taking all prescribed medications as recommended by your doctor will reduce the risk of a lingering infection and recurring symptoms.
Diagnosis Of A Skin Abscess
A mild skin abscess or boil is sometimes nothing to worry about. But you may need to see your physician if any of the following factors apply to you.
- Weakened immune system or recent hospitalization
- Children and Older Adults of ages 65 and above
- Organ transplant
- Current or recently received chemotherapy
- Abscess on the face or spine, when left untreated, can spread to the brain or spinal cord
- Large abscess with fever and no sign of healing after two weeks
- Abscess that spreads to other parts of the body
- Throbbing and painful abscess
- Swollen limbs
- Swollen and extremely red skin around the area of abscess
Your doctor will then conduct a physical examination to examine your skin abscess. He may ask questions like:
- When the abscess formed
- The prevailing symptoms
- How painful it is
- And if you have had previous abscess
This helps determine the type of abscess, that is it is caused by ingrown hair or injury.
He may also take the fluid for testing. This helps narrow down bacteria.
A blood or urine sample is taken in cases of recurrent abscess for underlying medical conditions.
Treatment For Skin Abscess
A skin abscess can be treated at home by applying heat or a warm compress to shrink it. Other treatment procedures include;
Mostly used for a stubborn abscess that does not heal after using home methods. This process involves draining the abscess.
During this process, your doctor applies numbing medication to ease off the pain. After this, he cuts open the abscess to allow the fluid to come out.
Afterward, he packs the drained site with surgical materials and prescribed antibiotics to help with the healing and prevent reoccurrence and infection.
Antibiotics are also used to treat severe cases of abscess.
Antibiotics like dicloxacillin and cephalexin are usually prescribed in cases such as compromised immune system, over one abscess, cellulitis, and abscess on the face, with a high risk of complications.
Your doctor may also recommend clindamycin and doxycycline in severe cases of staphylococcal bacteria when the bacteria have become resistant to previous antibiotics.
Prevention Of Skin Abscess
Prevention of skin abscesses may not be completely possible, but you can minimize the risk of acquiring staph infections that cause an abscess.
To reduce your chances of this, you should;
- Gently clean all cuts and scrapes, either small or large, with soap and water. Apply an over-the-counter antibacterial ointment.
- Keep all cuts and wounds bandaged or covered if necessary, to avoid contamination or inflection.
- Maintain a proper hygiene
- Eat healthily and incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet.
- Drink enough water and stay hydrated.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water
- For cuts and sores, regularly wash and soak towels and Beddings in hot water, detergent and bleach.
- Do not share personal items such as razors, towels, makeup, shaving sticks, clothing, sheets, and athletic equipment.
Skin abscess, although mild, should be treated early on to avoid complications.
If you experience skin abscess on any part of your body, treat it as soon as possible, most especially if it does not go on its own.
Treat all underlying infections, medical conditions, and lingering symptoms to avoid a recurrence.
Healthline: What Causes A Skin Abscess
NHS: Causes Of Abscess
MedicalNews Today: What To Know About Skin Abscess