An abscess is an accumulation of pus in any part of the body, surrounded by swelling and inflammation. An abscess can develop, widen or diminish, depending on the degree of infection by microorganisms, such as bacteria. The abscesses can develop in any organ and in the soft tissues under the skin in any area.

The usual areas of abscesses are breasts, gums and the perirectal area. The less common but possible areas are the brain and the liver.

The usual areas for abscesses under the skin are the armpit and groin. These two areas have a large number of lymphatic glands, which are responsible for fighting the infection.

Cutaneous abscess

Cutaneous abscess is a localized infection deep within the skin. Cutaneous abscess usually begins as a red, softened area. Over time, the area becomes firm and hard.

Finally, the center of the abscess softens and fills with white lymphocytes that fight infections that the body sends blood to stop the infection. This collection of white blood cells, bacteria and proteins is known as pus.

Finally, the pus forms a head, which can be drained through the surface of the skin using pressure or surgical methods.


Boils are skin abscesses caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. A boil may have one or more openings on the skin and may be associated with fever or chills.

Cystic acne

Cystic acne is a type of abscess that forms when oil ducts become clogged and infected. Cystic acne affects the skin tissue deeper than the inflammation on the skin commonly seen in acne. Cystic acne is the most common on the face and usually occurs in the teenage years.
Hidradenitis suppurativa

Hirradenitis suppurativa is a condition in which multiple abscesses develop under the armpits and often in the groin area. These areas are the result of local inflammation of the sweat glands. This form of skin infection is difficult to treat with antibiotics alone and usually requires surgery to remove the sweat glands involved in order to stop the inflammation of the skin.

Pilonidal cyst

The pilonidal cyst is a unique type of abscess that occurs at the bottom of the coccyx. Pilonidic cysts often start as tiny areas of infection in the base of the hair follicle (the area of skin from which the hair grows). With the irritation of the direct pressure, over time, the inflamed area widens to become a firm, painful, tender nodule that prevents you from sitting down or makes you sore. These are frequently formed after long journeys that involve a prolonged position.

Pilonidic cysts are more common in men than in women.

Other abscesses

Other types of abscesses are noteworthy, such as amoebic liver abscesses (accumulation of pus in the liver caused by the intestinal parasite Entamoeba histolytica), anorectal abscesses (anal or rectal), Bartholin’s glands (located on each side of the vagina), cerebral abscesses, peritonsillar abscesses (next to the tonsils), pyogenic liver abscesses (abscess puss), skin abscesses, spinal abscess, subcutaneous abscesses (under the skin) ) and dental abscesses.

Abscess: Risk Factors

The abscesses can be caused by small breaks and skin pricks, obstruction of the sweat glands and oily glands (sebaceous), and inflammation of the hair follicles. They contain dead cells, bacteria and others, which cause inflammation and pain.

  • Infection: The Staphylococcus aureus bacteria can enter through a cut, scrape or skin lesion. These bacteria, which normally inhabit the skin and sometimes the throat and nasal passages, are responsible for a number of serious diseases, including pneumonia, meningitis (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain), urinary tract infections and endocarditis. (inflammation of the lining of the heart). They are also a major cause of hospital infections (known as nosocomial infections) and food-borne illnesses.
  • Fungal infections sometimes cause abscesses, while amoebae (unicellular protozoan parasites) are a major cause of liver abscess.

People with weakened immune systems, such as victims of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), may be at increased risk for abscess or have more severe symptoms.

Tight clothing: The constant irritation of tight clothing can cause irritation in the skin, which facilitates the penetration of the bacteria into the body and can cause abscesses.

Other skin conditions: Skin problems, such as acne and dermatitis, make people more susceptible to boils and carbuncles.

Various skin problems can damage the protective barrier of the skin. Infected hairs and skin lesions, such as stigmata and cuts, can also lead to abscesses or boils.

Immunosuppressive Drugs: Many medications can disrupt the immune system and increase the risk of developing boils. Examples of such drugs are steroidal drugs, such as prednisone (Deltasone®) and prednisolone (Prelone®), as well as drugs used for cancer chemotherapy, such as methotrexate (Rheumatrex®), etoposide (Veepesid®) and doxorubicin (Adriamycin®).

Abscess: Signs and Symptoms

A “boil” usually appears suddenly as a painful pink or red bump usually quite small. The skin in the neighboring area may also be red and swollen.

In a few days, the reddened bump fills with pus. It gets bigger and more painful for about five to seven days, sometimes reaching the size of a golf ball before it develops a yellow-white tip that eventually opens. The boils are usually sharp in two weeks. Small boils usually heal without scarring, but boiling may leave a scar.

A carbuncle is a group of boils that often occurs in the back of the neck, shoulders or thighs, especially in older men. An carbuncle can cause a deeper and more severe infection than a simple boil. In addition, carbuncles develop and heal more slowly and are likely to leave a scar. A carbuncle can sometimes lead to fever.

Compared to acne, boils are usually more painful, inflamed and blush.



Self-treatment: Most simple boils can be treated at home. Ideally, treatment should begin as soon as you notice a “boil”. Early treatment can prevent further complications. The primary treatment for most boils is the application of heat, usually with warm compresses, usually containing sodium acetate and water. The compress can be purchased in a pharmacy and must be placed in a microwave for a few minutes to retain enough heat for application to the affected area. The application of heat allows the body to better fight infection by bringing antibodies and white blood cells to the site of the infection.

As long as the area is firm, opening and draining of “boiling” is not helpful, even if the area is painful. However, once the area becomes soft or forms a pustule (a small accumulation of pus in the top layer of the skin or below), this is the time.

Relief of pain can be immediate. It is not recommended to “empty” a boil or skirmish, as an infection may develop. Health professionals will recommend consulting a doctor for the incision of a skin abscess. Most little boils, like those forming around the hair, drain themselves.

Prevention of abscesses and boils

Injury cleaning: Clean carefully even small cuts and scratches is recommended by health professionals. Washing with soap and water and applying an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin; is also often recommended.

If a skin abscess has formed, it is recommended to apply a hot towel or a compress on the affected area.

Do this for at least ten minutes every few hours. If possible, first soak the tissue or compresses in Epsom® salts or warm salt water. This will allow “boiling” to break and flow faster.

It is important to wash your hands after boiling. Let the compress dry between applications to prevent bacterial growth on it.

Avoid tight clothing: Tight clothing can irritate the skin and cause an infection. Wearing loose clothing, especially in areas subject to friction, may help prevent abscess formation.

By Piper

Piper Skyler West: Piper, a sports medicine expert, shares advice on injury prevention, athletic performance, and sports health tips.