Abscess: Meaning, Diagnosis and Overview

What is Abscess?

Abscess is a bump that appears within and on the surface of skin. Bump is usually filled with pus or translucent fluid. It is a bacterial infection. It may appear on any part of the body commonly on face, back and chest. It can also appear in areas of hair growth such as underarms and groin. Surgery may be required to drain pus.
Abscess overview

Recovery Time

Once the pus is drained, the abscess should heal within two weeks, depending on its size.


  • Medical history
  • Physical examination
  • Sample of pus for lab testing

FAQs prepared by doctor

Q1.  What is an abscess and what causes it?
An abscess is a collection of pus. Pus is a thick fluid that usually contains white blood cells, dead tissue and germs (bacteria). The usual cause of an abscess is an infection with bacteria. Certain bacteria are more likely to be pus-forming as they make chemicals (toxins) that can damage the body s tissues. These include: Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. The infection causes the immune system to activate white blood cells and chemicals to fight the bacteria. In this battle some tissue dies. A cavity forms and fills with pus. The cavity becomes bigger if the infection continues.

Q2.  My doctor suspected abscess in my abdomen. I was advised USG. Was that required?
Infection in the liver can result in a liver abscess. An ultrasound scan or other types of scan can confirm a suspected abscess and its exact site such that its drained.

Q3.  What are the alternatives to skin abscess drainage?
Depending on how severe your abscess is, your doctor may recommend a non-surgical treatment for you. Usually you will be given antibiotics to encourage healing. If you feel unwell or have a fever, intravenous antibiotics (injected directly into your bloodstream) may be required, especially if you have other medical conditions such as diabetes. This will usually require admission to hospital.
If your abscess is large, or does not respond quickly to non-surgical treatment, it will need to be drained under local or general anesthesia.

Q4.  What would happen if an abscess were not treated?
A skin abscess would normally eventually burst on to the skin surface and let out the pus. This may be after it becomes larger and more painful. So, antibiotics and surgical drainage are usually best. However, a small boil may burst and heal without treatment. An untreated abscess inside the body is usually very serious. You are likely to become very ill and treatment is usually needed.

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