What is Abscess?
An abscess () is a collection of pus that has built up within the tissue of the body. Signs and symptoms of abscesses include: redness, pain, warmth, and swelling that when pressed feels like it is fluid filled. The area of redness often extends beyond the swelling. Carbuncles and furuncles are types of abscess that often involves hair follicles with carbuncles being larger.
They are usually caused by a bacterial infection. In the United States and many other areas of the world the most common bacteria present is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Rarely parasites can cause abscesses and this is more common in the developing world. Diagnosis of a skin abscess is usually made based on what it looks like and is confirmed by cutting it open. Ultrasound imaging may be useful in cases in which the diagnosis is not clear. In abscesses around the anus, computer tomography (CT) may be important to look for deeper infection.
Standard treatment for most skin or soft tissue abscesses is cutting it open and drainage. A small amount of evidence supports not packing with gauze the cavity that remains after drainage.
Skin abscesses are common and have become more common in recent years. Risk factors include intravenous drug use with rates reported as high as 65% in this population. In 2005 in the United States 3.2 million people went to the emergency department for an abscess. In Australia around 13,000 people were hospitalized in 2008 for the disease.