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Drugs and diseases reference index

Diseases reference index «Skin abscess»

Skin abscessSkin abscessSkin abscess

A skin abscess is a collection of pus and infected material in or on the skin.


Skin abscesses are fairly common. They occur when an infection causes pus and infected material to collect in the skin.

Skin abscesses may occur after:

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

Skin abscesses may occur anywhere on the body. They affect people of all ages.


  • Fever or chills, in some cases
  • Local swelling, hardening of tissue (induration)
  • Skin lesion
    • Open or closed sore, domed nodule
    • Red
    • May drain fluid
  • Tender and warm affected area

Exams and Tests

Your doctor can diagnose the condition based on the appearance of the area. A culture or examination of any drainage from the lesion may help identify what organism is causing it.


The goal of treatment is to cure the infection. The doctor may cut and drain the abscess to clean the area and control the infection. Antibiotics are given by mouth to control the infection.

Heat (such as warm compresses) may speed healing, reduce inflammation, and make the area feel better. Raise the affected part to reduce swelling and inflammation.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most skin abscesses can be cured with proper treatment.

Possible Complications

  • Prevention of the proper functioning of nearby tissues
  • Spread of infection around the same area or throughout the body
  • Spread of infection through the bloodstream, causing:
    • Abscess formation on the joints or other locations
    • Endocarditis
    • Many new abscesses ("seeding" of infection)
    • Osteomyelitis
  • Tissue death (gangrene)

When to Contact a Medical Professional

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

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

Also call for an appointment if you develop new symptoms during or after treatment for a skin abscess.


Prevent and watch for bacterial infections. Keep the skin around minor wounds clean and dry. Consult the health care provider if you develop signs of infection. Treat minor infections promptly.

Alternative Names

Abscess - skin; Cutaneous abscess; Subcutaneous abscess