Saturday, December 03, 2005


Cutaneous Abscesses

Cutaneous Abscesses

Localized pus filled infections. More commonly referred to as carbunles, boils, folliculitis and furuncles.


Cutaneous Abscesses

Alternative Names

abscess - skin; cutaneous abscess; subcutaneous abscess


A collection of pus and infected material in or on the skin

Causes, Risk Factors Incidence

Skin abscesses are fairly common. They are caused when a localized infection causes pus and infected material to collect in the skin or
subcutaneous tissue. Skin abscesses may follow a bacterial infection, commonly an infection with staphylococcus (staph aureus is most common).

They can develop after a minor wound, injury, or as a complication of folliculitis or boils (furuncles, carbuncles). Skin abscesses may occur anywhere on the body. They affect people of all ages.The abscess can obstruct and impinge on the functioning of deeper tissues. The infection may spread locally or systemically. The spread of infection through the bloodstream may cause severe complications.


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, including fever, pain, redness, localized swelling, or drainage that looks like pus or is bloody. Treat superficial (minor) infections promptly.


skin lesion
open sore or
may drain fluid
swelling, induration
affected area is tender to touch

Signs and Tests

The diagnosis is based on the appearance of the area.Culture of drainage from the lesion may reveal the causative organism.


The goal of treatment is the cure of the infection.Surgical incision and drainage of the abscess, with or without packing for 24 to 48 hours, cleans the area and allows infection to be controlled. Some skin abscesses may be drained in the health care provider's office.Antibiotics are given to control the infection.Heat (such as warm compresses) may speed healing, reduce inflammation, and reduce discomfort.Elevate the affected part to reduce swelling and inflammation.


Most skin abscesses are curable with treatment.


localized spread of infection
impingement on the functioning of adjacent structures
gangrene (tissue death)
systemic spread of infection causing:
multiple new abscesses ("seeding" of infection)
abscess formation on the joints, pleura, or other locations

Call you doctor if

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms indicate skin abscess is present.Call for an appointment with your health care provider if signs of superficial skin infection occur, including fever, pain, redness, localized swelling, drainage that looks like pus or is bloody.Also call for an appointment with your health care provider if new symptoms develop during or after treatment for skin abscess.

MedLines Plus


Cutaneous Abscesses

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