You’ve probably heard of dental abscesses, large, swollen, pockets of pus that form around an infected tooth. But what you may not know is that abscesses can form anywhere, including your skin.
Occasionally, an abscess will resolve on its own. But other times, the infection can spread to other areas of your body or to your bloodstream.
At Vayu Advanced Wound Clinic and Hyperbarics in San Antonio, Texas, Manjulatha Badam, MD, CWSP, UHM, offers advanced treatment options for abscesses, targeting the infection and helping prevent a recurrence. In this month’s blog, she explains what you need to know about abscesses.
Abscesses form when your body is trying to fight an infection. When a germ invades your tissues, your immune system responds by dispatching white blood cells and triggering an inflammatory response at the site of the invasion.
As the white blood cells fight the invading germs, pus forms and creates a pocket, which forms the abscess wall. Pus is made of living and dead white blood cells and germs, fluids, and other debris.
Abscesses can form inside your body around an organ, but they commonly develop on your skin, usually after a cut or abrasion gets infected. One common type of skin abscess is called a boil or furuncle. These abscesses form around an infected hair follicle, often under your arm or in your groin area.
Some skin abscesses look similar to a pimple, but unlike pimples, abscesses can cause serious complications. Signs and symptoms include:
- A hard lump or bump
- A bump that looks red
- Pain when you touch the bump
- Warmth or redness in the surrounding skin
Sometimes, the center of an abscess feels soft or forms a whitish or yellowish tone.
Depending on the type of abscess and the severity of the infection that’s causing it, you might also have fever, chills, or stomach upset. Sometimes, the skin forms a tiny hole or crack and drains fluid from inside the abscess.
Treating an abscess
It might be tempting to think you can treat an abscess on your own. But if the infection spreads to other tissues or enters your bloodstream, it can quickly spread, causing life-threatening complications.
If you think you have an abscess, contact us to have it medically evaluated so we can treat it properly. In most cases, that treatment involves antibiotics to destroy the germ that’s causing the infection.
You must take antibiotics exactly as prescribed, and you need to continue to take them for as long as prescribed, even if you think the infection has healed. If you vary from your prescription, the infection could get worse or spread.
In addition to antibiotics, we frequently use sterile surgical techniques to drain the abscess, making a small incision in the skin over the abscess to remove the fluids. Depending on the size of the abscess, we may temporarily pack the pocket with sterile gauze or use other methods to help the area heal.
For internal abscesses including rare but serious brain abscesses, we often prescribe hyperbaric oxygen therapy. In this therapy, pure oxygen is delivered under pressure inside a special chamber, supporting healthy white blood cell activity and improving the effects of antibiotic therapy.
Don’t delay treatment
If you have an abscess, even a brief delay in treatment can allow the infection to spread and cause serious harm to your body and your health. The best way to prevent serious complications is to have the abscess evaluated early.
If you think you might have an abscess, call us at 210-651-1112 or book an appointment online today.