An abscess can develop in various parts of the body. An operation may be needed to drain the pus. You may also need to take antibiotics.

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 bacteria (germs). The usual cause of an abscess is an infection with bacteria

What are the common sites for a abscess?

Most abscesses form just under the skin. A boil is the most common example. In case of a boil, a hair root becomes infected and develops into a small abscess. The skin around the anus is another common area for an abscess to develop.

An abscess can form inside the body within an organ or in a space between organs. Various symptoms may occur, depending on the site of the abscess.

Who are at risk for getting an abscess?

Most skin abscesses occur in people who are otherwise well. There is often no underlying cause. Your doctor may check your urine for sugar, as there is scientific evidence that abscesses tend to occur more often in people with diabetes.

An abscess inside the body usually occurs in people who are ill with other problems, or in people who are immunocompromised (immune system is not working well). For example: a lung abscess may form following a bout of pneumonia or aspiration of vomitus in a drunk state; a brain abscess may form after a ear operation or head injury.

How do you treat an abscess?

Antibiotics are usually prescribed and the pus usually needs to be drained away. For a skin abscess, this involves a small operation to cut the top of the skin and allow the pus to drain. More extensive surgeries are required for draining abscesses inside the body.

What if an abscess is left un- treated?

A skin abscess would normally eventually burst on to the skin surface and let out the pus. This usually follows a very painful process of enlargement. So, antibiotics and surgical drainage are usually the best course. An untreated abscess inside the body is a very serious condition. You are likely to become very ill and life threatening complications may ensue.

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