Abscess - causes and treatment

Abscess - causes and treatment

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Ulceration: therapy and causes
An abscess, also known as pus bump in colloquial language, is a collection of pus in an encapsulated cavity that did not previously exist, but only arose from the melting of dead tissue. An abscess is closed on all sides by a membrane and can occur almost anywhere in and on the body, both in organs and on the skin, which is usually much more common. This accumulation of pus is usually associated with massive pain and soon lets the person concerned see a doctor. An abscess can take on a wide variety of sizes, from small nodules to pus-sized pus.

Abscess: how the pus develops

Pus is usually whitish-yellow, can be thick or thin. In conjunction with an abscess, this secretion forms in a cavity. Pus arises from inflammation caused by bacteria. This is actually a completely natural defense reaction of the body, in which leukocytes (white blood cells), tissue residues, bacteria and some blood serum together form a yellowish liquid, the pus - also known as pus in technical terminology. Pus can appear throughout the body. For example, an accumulation of pus in the tissue is an abscess, it forms an empyema in existing body cavities, a purulent inflammation of the hair follicles is referred to as boils and if more than one hair is affected, it is called carbuncles.


Bacterial pathogens such as staphylococci and streptococci can trigger foci of inflammation that encapsulate all around in the tissue. For example, a bacterium penetrates deeper into the skin, there is no drainage to the outside due to sebum or dirt, and a pus bump develops from it.

Abscesses develop extremely rarely without the influence of bacteria, without a focus of inflammation, for example after major operations or injections.

Where abscesses can occur frequently

They most often appear on the skin, especially in the form of boils or carbuncles. A hair follicle has become inflamed in a boil and a pus has formed, whereby several hair follicles are affected in a boil. The affected area is red, swollen and the abscess can usually be felt as a bulky structure. The patient complains of pain that, depending on the location and extent, can become almost unbearable. For example, an abscess after shaving the armpit hair or even the pubic hair can result from an inflammation.

Development of a boil

An abscess usually forms when the affected person has a weakened immune system, for example during examination times, during menstruation or during psychological stress. If there is a diabetes mellitus disease, the person affected is at greater risk of becoming ill. If the skin is sensitive and damaged, as is the case with neurodermatitis or psoriasis, this can also promote the build-up of pus. Skin injuries after surgery, poor wound care or clothing that is too tight can also lead to this.

How an abscess is noticeable

Depending on the size and location, there are different symptoms. With a superficial abscess, inflammation appears from the outside, similar to a large pimple. The affected area is red, swollen, possibly hot, and reacts very painfully to pressure.

Depending on the location of the action, movements can cause major complaints. In the further course, the purulent inflammation can spread and the pain increases. The accumulation of pus under the skin is recognizable by a whitish-yellowish color.

If the abscess is of a larger size or is within the body, general symptoms such as fatigue, general feeling of illness, fever, headache and body aches are quite possible. Abscesses that are located inside the body are not necessarily painful, often the fever is the only symptom here. In such cases, examination methods such as ultrasound, MRI or CT are necessary to make a diagnosis. An additional blood test shows inflammation parameters and antibodies against the causative agent in patients.

Abscess treatment

Under no circumstances should you express a boil of pus yourself, especially if it is on your face. By squeezing, the bacteria can get into deeper tissue. As a result, the inflammation may spread further, the pathogens can be transported via the blood path and, in the worst case, there is a risk of brain abscess.

If the abscess is on the face, the symptoms worsen from day to day or if there is a fever, general feeling of illness, headache and body ache, a doctor should be consulted in any case.

With small, superficial accumulations of pus, medication with a special traction ointment is often sufficient. This contains active ingredients that, as the name suggests, “pull” the pus more to the surface. The abscess often opens automatically after a few days and the wound can then be treated. If the pus is lower or difficult to treat, an antibiotic is used. If all of this does not help, surgical intervention is required. Depending on the affected area, this takes place under partial or general anesthesia. The affected tissue is split and the pus is drained to the outside with the help of a drain. The wound is then cleaned and not sutured, but has to heal “openly” so that pathogens and fluids can no longer be encapsulated in the “cavity”. Thorough irrigation of the wound and wearing a bandage is important in the first few weeks after the operation. If, for example, an anal abscess has been removed, hip baths help. Here too, embarrassing hygiene is essential after every toilet visit.

If they occur frequently, this may indicate diabetes mellitus or another underlying disease that needs to be treated.

Therapy in naturopathy

Even if the abscess fundamentally requires conventional medical treatment, this can be sensibly supported by suitable means from naturopathy. The Schüssler Salt Therapy uses Salt No. 11 Silicea to get the pus to drain. If this is the case, salt No. 12 Calcium sulfuricum supports the healing process. This therapy is strengthened with the external application of the Schüssler ointments No. 1 Calcium fluoratum, No. 3 Ferrum phosphoricum, No. 11 Silicea and No. 12 Calcium sulfuricum. With a small, superficial abscess, if it is not on the face, bring a partial bath in a core soap solution or in warm water with chamomile decoction, relief. Envelopes with salt water or healing earth can also contribute to healing.

Homeopathy for boils

Homeopathy also has a remedy for abscesses that experts call the “homeopathic knife”. Myristica sebifera (tallow nutmeg tree) is said to either melt the abscess or open it. Essential oils, such as lavender oil, tea tree oil or thyme oil, applied to a swab and fixed with a gauze bandage overnight can "mature" the abscess.

For those who suffer more frequently, stimulation of the immune system should be considered. The psyche also often plays an important role here. So it is found again and again that these pus collections like to accumulate in times of psychological stress.

Abscess healing process

The healing process depends on size, location and extent. Small, superficial ones usually heal completely. The more timely a pus is treated, the less complicated the healing process is. It is important in any case that no abscess is expressed with the fingers, especially not if it is on the face. Daily cleaning of the wound and changing the dressing every day contribute to a positive healing process after the intervention.


A protective immune system is a good prerequisite for protecting yourself. The main pathogen, Stapylococcus aureus, is part of the normal skin flora in many people without initiating a disease. Daily, thorough personal hygiene, especially in places where sweat is generated, helps to keep it that way. Inflammation can easily occur in hairy areas of the body, which may also be irritated by clothing that is too tight. To protect yourself from an abscess, for example, you should avoid wearing jeans that are too tight. In order to arm the immune system against the formation of abscesses, a vitamin-rich and fiber-rich diet is important.

Special washing lotions for the intimate area are usually not necessary, but rather help to destroy the protective acid mantle of the skin. (sw)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Susanne Waschke, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Public health portal in Austria: abscess (accessed: 30.07.2019), gesundheit.gv.at
  • German Society for General and Visceral Surgery (DGAV): S3 guideline anal abscess, status: June 2016, awmf.org
  • Herold, Gerd: Internal Medicine 2019, self-published, 2018
  • Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG): Boils and carbuncles (accessed: July 30, 2019), gesundheitsinformation.de
  • Merck and Co. Inc .: Abscesses in the abdominal cavity (accessed: July 30, 2019), msdmanuals.com
  • National Health Service UK: Overview - Abscess (accessed: 30.07.2019), nhs.uk
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine: Abscess (accessed: July 30, 2019), medlineplus.gov
  • Mayo Clinic: Boils and carbuncles (accessed: July 30, 2019), mayoclinic.org

ICD codes for this disease: L02ICD codes are internationally valid encryption codes for medical diagnoses. You can find e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.

Video: Lung Infection; Lung Abscess, Aspiration Syndromes, Systemic fungi (September 2022).


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