By Dr. Anil Ganjoo, Dermatology
An abscess is a tender, swollen area within the body tissue that contains pus and debris. Pus is a thick fluid comprising of white blood cells, bacteria and dead tissue. It is painful to touch and can appear anywhere in your body such as your groin, your armpits (axillae), around your tooth (dental abscess), anus and vagina (Bartholin gland abscess) or at the base of your spine (pilonidal abscess).
There are three different ways to treat an abscess depending upon the size and type of abscess. Sometimes, skin abscesses can get better and drain naturally without medical treatment through self-care measures such as hot compresses for half an hour, four times a day. The three ways to remove abscesses through medical treatment are-
1. Antibiotics- An abscess is caused by staph bacteria that is unaffected by most antibiotics. Initially, prescribed antibiotics can only cure common infections since the bacteria are not identified. However, once the identification from a pus sample is done, the antibiotics prescribed are for a more focused type of bacteria. However, sometimes antibiotics are not enough to clear skin abscesses completely and they may keep growing or reoccur.
2. Incision and Drainage- A small operation needs to be carried out by the doctor during the incision and drainage treatment. Local anaesthesia is administered to the patient to numb the area around the abscess. Firstly the doctor cuts the abscess, draining out the pus. The pus may be used for testing. Following this, the wound is cleaned by a sterile saline solution and is then covered in wound dressing, allowing any newly formed pus to drain away.
3. Surgery- You may also need to undergo surgery if the drainage treatment has not been able to remove all the pus. The type of surgery, however, depends upon the size and location of the abscess and may require creation of a bigger incision in your body to wash the pus out completely.