What is an abscess?

An abscess is a collection of pus inside your body. Abscesses usually form because of an infection or because a foreign object becomes trapped in your body. When your body fights an infection or tries to destroy a foreign object trapped inside, white blood cells fill the affected tissues, and the resulting fluid is called pus.

Pus contains living and dead bacteria, living and dead white blood cells, and the remnants of the cells and tissue that were killed or injured by the infection or by your body’s immune response.

Abscesses often form in or near the skin or in the mouth near the teeth. An abscess often looks like a bump of any size that is red and often swollen, and inside of the bump is a pus-filled space. It is unwise to attempt to drain any abscess—no matter how superficial. Doing so could lead to a lethal blood-borne infection (sepsis).

Abscesses are usually treatable with antibiotics, surgery, or a combination of these. In many cases, surgical drainage of an abscess is required. A specimen of the fluid within the abscess is generally sent to the laboratory to identify any causative bacteria. Most abscesses can be treated effectively and have fairly few complications, though some abscesses can occur deeper in your body or in your organs and can cause much more serious damage.

Seek prompt medical care if you suspect you have an abscess, or if you are being treated for an abscess and the condition persists or causes you concern.


What other symptoms might occur with an abscess?

An abscess may accompany other symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Skin symptoms that may occur along with an abscess

An abscess may accompany other symptoms affecting the skin including:


What causes an abscess?

An abscess is caused by your immune system responding to some type of infection or foreign object. Bacterial infections are the most common cause of an abscess, especially an abscess of the skin or mouth. Parasites can cause abscess formation in your organs and, though rare, this can be a serious medical condition. A foreign object lodged inside you, such as a bullet, can also cause an abscess.... Read more about abscesscauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases

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