An abscess is an area filled with pus (dead tissue, white blood cells and bacteria). Cutaneous abscesses are the most common and typically present in the armpits and genitals. These appear red, swollen, raised, painful and hot to touch. If left untreated the individual may develop a fever, lymphadenitis and become very unwell. The abscess may also burst, leaking thick yellow pus.
Abscesses are usually caused by bacteria entering through the skin barrier, usually through a wound, foreign body or hair follicle. The most common infective causes are staphylococcus, TB, gram negative organisms or fungal infections.
If caught early and the individual is systemically well oral antibiotics should be sufficient. However, the site should be closely monitored for any worsening symptoms. If the individual is symptomatic and there is discharge from the site skin swabs should be taken and microscopy and cultures should be considered. Incision and drainage of the abscess may also be required. It is important to monitor the redness and swelling, as this may spread and track to surrounding healthy tissue.