An abscess is a collection of pus that has built up within the tissue of the body, and while abscesses aren’t pretty, they’re typically harmless. What exactly is an abscess? It’s a tender mass that’s usually surrounded by a colored area that is pink to deep red, and it can show up any place on your body, with the most common places being the armpits, the base of your spine, around your tooth, in your groin, and areas around the anus and vagina.
So, how do we get these unpleasant masses? Abscesses are usually caused when oil (sebaceous) glands or sweat glands become blocked, hair follicles become inflamed (boils), or there are minor punctures of the skin. Germs invade the skin which causes an inflammatory response as your body tries to kill these germs. The middle of the abscess liquefies and contains dead skin cells, bacteria, and other debris, and as the area grows, the tension underneath the skin causes more pressure and inflammation.
As some abscesses progress, they may develop a “head” so you can see the material inside before the abscess spontaneously ruptures. Most will continue to get worse without care, and if the infection spreads to the tissue underneath the skin and into the bloodstream, you can develop a fever and begin to feel sick. The best way to treat your abscess at home is by applying a warm compress to the area for about 30 minutes, four times a day, every day. However, you should seek medical care if:
- You have a sore that’s larger than 1 cm
- The sore continues to enlarge or become more painful
- You have a red streak going away from the abscess
- The sore is in your rectal or groin area
- You have a fever
If you go to the doctor’s office for an abscess, you can expect they’ll treat it through incision and drainage (I&D). The area around the abscess will be numbed, or you may be given some type of sedative if the abscess is large. Either way, you won’t feel any pain during the procedure. The doctor will then cut open the abscess and totally drain it of pus and debris before inserting some packing into the remaining cavity to reduce any bleeding. If you’re like most people, you’ll immediately begin feeling better after the abscess is drained.
The simplest way to have an abscess drained is by going to an urgent care center. Through the Solv app, you can find all of the urgent care facilities closest to you, and schedule an appointment at a time that works best for you. You can even find out which ones accept your insurance, so you can choose the most affordable option.