An abscess is the buildup of pus within the body. It typically forms due to an infection or if a foreign object is trapped inside the body. Once the body responds to the infection or attempts to eliminate a foreign object inside, the white blood cells fill the affected tissues and the resulting fluid is known as pus.
Pus contains both dead and living bacteria, white blood cells and the remains of the cells and tissues that were damaged or killed by the infection or by the immune response of the body.
An abscess often forms in or close to the skin or in the mouth near the teeth. It often takes on an appearance of a bump of any size that is red and often swollen while the inside is filled with pus. Remember that attempting to drain any abscess is not advisable since it can lead to a blood-borne infection.
What are the other symptoms present with an abscess?
An abscess might be accompanied by other symptoms that usually vary depending on the underlying cause.
- Drainage or oozing of fluid from the skin
- Redness, warmth or swelling
- Peeling or ulcerated skin
- Pain on or around the lump
Other symptoms that might arise involving other bodily systems include the following:
- Joint pain
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Fever, chills or sweating
- Sore throat
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Appetite loss or rapid weight loss
What are the causes?
An abscess is triggered by the response of the immune system to infections or foreign objects within the body. It is important to note that bacterial infections are the usual cause of an abscess particularly in the skin or mouth.
If there is a foreign object in the body such as a bullet, it can also lead to the formation of an abscess.
The common causes include the following:
- Foreign object in the body such as a piece of metal or thorn
- Skin infection
- Infection at the site of a previous surgery
- Tooth infection that might progress to a periodontic abscess
- Trauma or wound to the skin especially a puncture wound
An abscess is typically managed using antibiotics, surgery or a combination of these. In most instances, surgical drainage is required.
A sample of the fluid inside the abscess is analyzed to identify any causative bacteria. Most cases can be managed effectively and only result to a few complications, but some might be deep in the body or in the organs and trigger serious damage.