What Is Skin Abscesses

Skin abscesses are purulent manifestations, which appear on the skin, caused by a bacterial infection. Painful to the touch can appear anywhere on the body.


The formation of an abscess is due to a bacterial infection from microorganisms such as streptococcus, gonococci and, mainly, staphylococci, which invade the organism through small perforations or injuries, obstruction of sweat glands and sebaceous glands and inflammation of hair follicles.

The disease occurs when the infection penetrates the skin and the body’s defense cells, called leukocytes or white cells, leave the blood vessels for the infected area, in order to attack the invading bacteria. The process generates a bag of inflamed tissue covered with pus, which is a mixture of bacteria, cells and dead tissue.

A skin abscess is thus characterized by being a swollen, painful and sensitive area, which, on palpation, appears to be filled with thick fluid.

When bacteria infect the surrounding tissue, they cause diffuse inflammation of the connective tissue, or cellulite. The bacteria can also infect neighboring lymph vessels and the lymph nodes into which they drain, causing them to swell.


  • Inflammation with or without pain
  • Nodule
  • Edema
  • Local sensitivity
  • Fever


Treatment is usually done by incising and draining the pus.

To perform this procedure, the doctor uses a local anesthetic and, after draining the abscess, a cavity review is performed to ensure that all pus bags have been drained. Any remaining purulent secretion is eliminated by washing the cavity with saline.

Sometimes the drained abscess is covered with a gauze dressing, which is removed after 24 to 48 hours.

 The application of mild heat and the elevation of the affected area can accelerate the healing process.

When the abscess is completely drained, administration of antibiotics is not necessary. However, they are necessary when the infection spreads or when the abscess is located in the middle or upper portion of the face, as the risk of spreading the infection to the brain is high.

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