Information on Skin Abscesses and Treatment Options
What is a skin abscess:
A skin abscess is a bacterial infection that forms a pocket of pus - it is like a pimple, but deeper. A boil is a kind of skin abscess
An abscess usually feels like a painful, tender, swollen lump that's filled with pus. The area around it can be different than your normal skin color. Abcesses are often easy to feel by touching, and can develop anywhere in the body.
How often do they happen?
In the US, 4.5 million people per year are treated for abscesses. They are the #7 reason for an ER visit.
What are the symptoms?
People may experience:
- Whole body: chills or fever
- Skin: pimples or redness
- Also common: pus, painful lump, tenderness, swelling, or swollen lymph nodes
What to do next:
See your doctor if you think you may have an abscess. Early treatment helps prevent more severe problems.
You can get care at your doctor's office, an urgent care, or a hospital emergency department.
Today’s Abscess Treatment Options
Incision & Drainage
The doctor makes a 1-2 inch cut across the abscess with a scalpel. The pus is drained, and gauze is placed inside the open wound. The gauze soaks up fluid as the abscess heals. It is removed and new gauze put in up to 5 times while the abscess heals. You may need to visit your doctor each time the gauze is changed.
More painful procedure
More painful after the procedure
More follow-up visits to your doctor
More treatment failures
Newer / Proven Technique
The doctor pokes a hole in your abscess and pulls a tube from one side to the other. The ends of the tube are attached, forming a loop. The pus drains out of the small holes around the tube. The doctor flushes fluid through the tube to make sure all the pus is gone. The tube is removed when the abscess is healed.
Less painful procedure
Less painful after the procedure
Fewer or no follow-up visits with your doctor
Fewer treatment failures