A skin abscess is a tender mass generally surrounded by a colored area from pink to deep red. Abscesses are often easy to feel by touching. The vast majority of them are caused by infections. Inside, they are full of pus, bacteria and debris.
Painful and warm to touch, abscesses can show up any place on your body. The most common sites on the skin in your armpits (axillae), areas around your anus and vagina (Bartholin gland abscess), the base of your spine (pilonidal abscess), around a tooth (dental abscess), and in your groin. Inflammation around a hair follicle can also lead to the formation of an abscess, which is called a boil (fur-uncle).
Unlike other infections, antibiotics alone will not usually cure an abscess. In general an abscess must open and drain in order for it to improve. Sometimes draining occurs on its own, but generally it must be opened with the help of a warm compress or by a doctor in a procedure called incision and drainage (I&D).
When our normal skin barrier is broken, even from minor trauma, or small tears, or inflammation, bacteria can enter the skin. An abscess can form as your body’s defenses try to kill these germs with your inflammatory response (white blood cells = pus). Obstruction in a sweat or oil (sebaceous) gland, or a hair follicle or a pre-existing cyst can also trigger an abscess. The middle of the abscess liquefies and contains dead cells, bacteria, and other debris. This area begins to grow, creating tension under the skin and further inflammation of the surrounding tissues. Pressure and inflammation cause the pain.People with weakened immune systems get certain abscesses more often.
Other risk factors for abscess include exposure to dirty environments, exposure to persons with certain types of skin infections, poor hygiene, and poor circulation.