What is abscess?
The abscess is a bag of inflamed tissue filled with pus, the result of when an infection, usually bacterial, penetrates the skin and the body’s immune system tries to fight it.
Painful, warm and red in color, the abscess can occur anywhere on the body, either on the skin, or on organs or tissues under the epidermis. However, the manifestation of the disease is more frequent in fold areas, such as the armpits and groin, as they are areas with a high concentration of lymph nodes, responsible for combating the invading microorganisms that cause the infection. It is also common to occur in the anus or be due to the pilonidal cyst , at the base of the spine.
Abscesses are not reabsorbed, so they need to be drained to achieve healing. If the guidance of health professionals is neglected, the infection can affect internal organs or tissues, causing serious complications and difficulty in treatment.
Abscesses can develop anywhere in the body (internal or external), so their types vary according to the region affected by the disease. Among the best known are:
They can be caused by trauma, surgery or infection in the abdominal area. Intra-abdominal abscesses, which occur inside the abdomen, are the result of a rupture or infection of an internal organ.
They occur if Entamoeba histolytica parasites spread beyond the gastrointestinal tract. They can reach the liver and form abscesses in the spleen or brain, rare but dangerous complications.
Accumulation of pus in the rectum and anus, which can be caused by a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), a blocked gland or an infection of an anal fissure . The most common type is the perianal, which manifests itself as a swollen wound near the anus.
It occurs when the Bartholin’s glands, located on the sides of the opening of the vagina, are blocked and infected. Inflammation of a cyst at the site can cause an abscess to develop.
Cerebral abscess is a rare but fatal condition. It results from the accumulation of pus in the brain, caused by the entry of bacteria after trauma or fractures in the skull, surgery or a previous infection in the region.
Dental or periapical abscess
Lesion full of pus in the roots of the teeth, which causes sharp and continuous pain. The tooth is sensitive to heat, cold and contact with food during chewing.
The disease can also manifest adverse symptoms, such as fever , swelling in the lymph nodes of the jaw, neck or face. With follow-up from the dentist, the abscess must be drained so as not to spread the infection to other areas of the body.
Liver or liver abscess can be caused by cases of abdominal infection, in the blood or in the bile ducts.
An abscess that reaches the spleen, with origins related to bacteremia – the presence of a large number of bacteria in the blood – after splenic infarction .
Spinal cord abscess
Inflammation in the spinal cord that results from an infection inside the spine.
Abscesses are often found on the surface of the skin and mainly affect areas around the anus and groin, underarms and the base of the backbone (pilonidal abscess). Inflammation around a hair follicle – a structure capable of producing hair – can also lead to an abscess called a furuncle.
Cases tonsillitis (tonsils infection) can trigger the peritonsillar abscess, infection reaches the region of the head and neck.
The pilonidal cyst develops in the terminal region of the spine, a few centimeters above the anus, in the area that separates the two buttocks. The accumulation of materials, such as skin fragments, sweat glands (responsible for sweat) and sebaceous glands (responsible for secreting sebum, to lubricate the skin), generates an inflammatory process that causes pilonidal abscess.
Lung abscess is caused by infections in the lungs, such as after pneumonia .
Abscesses are often caused by bacterial infections from the following microorganisms: streptococcus, gonococci and, especially, staphylococci. Bacteria invade the organism through entrance doors into the skin, such as perforations, obstruction of the sweat glands and sebaceous glands and by the inflammation of hair follicles.
The disease occurs when the infection penetrates the skin and the body’s defense cells, called leukocytes or white cells, leave the blood vessels for the infected area, with the intention of attacking the invading bacteria. The process generates a bag of inflamed tissue covered with pus, which is a mixture of bacteria, cells and dead tissue. That is, abscesses are reactions of the body’s immune system against infections that affect some organic tissue.
In some cases, staph bacteria produce a toxin that kills white blood cells, which causes the body to produce more leukocytes to deal with bacterial invasion, leading to repeated abscesses.
Other causes that can lead to the formation of the disease:
The abscess can also be caused by other microorganisms, such as fungi or amoeba infestation, a parasite responsible for abscesses in the liver. The disease reaches the internal organs through the bloodstream or after penetrating the tissues on the skin.
The disease can also be caused by some chemical substances, such as the essence of turpentine, a liquid made through the distillation of trees that is normally used in mixtures of paints, varnishes and polishers.
Bacilo de Koch
Koch’s bacillus, the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis , is also capable of forming abscesses.
Anyone can acquire the disease, but its occurrence is more frequent in people with low immunity, as in cases of:
- Drug users;
- Individuals exposed to poor hygiene;
- People who maintain a diet rich in fats, mainly pork;
- Patients with HIV, circulatory problems or metabolic syndrome;
- Patients being treated with corticotherapy or chemotherapy.
The symptoms of an abscess may vary according to the affected area, but maintain the following characteristics regardless of the region:
- Manifestation of a nodule – an elevation in the skin or in any tissue, characterized by an increase in volume in the region;
- Pain to the touch;
The color of the abscess varies between dark pink and very reddish. In severe conditions, the patient may experience cases of fever, water, sweat, chills and general malaise.
Abscesses can progress during the time that the necessary treatments are not performed. If any of the conditions below occur, the patient must urgently consult the doctor:
- If the nodule continues to grow and becomes larger than 1 cm in diameter;
- If the abscess becomes even more painful;
- If the wound is close to the rectal or groin area;
- If you show a high fever;
- If red streaks appear from the abscess.
An exception to most symptoms are tuberculous abscesses, called “cold abscesses”.
External abscesses can be diagnosed from the visual observation of a dermatologist, as they are easily perceived through the skin. Inmates, however, depend on the aid of imaging exams to obtain a concrete diagnosis. In this case, the general practitioner will be responsible for the first contact with the patient, who will refer to the specialist doctor according to the region affected by the disease.
One of the necessary tests is to collect a sample of pus from the patient’s abscess. The analysis allows the identification of specific bacteria that cause the disease.
If the patient has more than one skin abscess, the doctor may order a urine test to measure the individual’s glucose levels to correctly diagnose diabetes . Diabetics are prone to acquire abscesses and should receive immediate treatment.
If the abscesses are recurrent, the doctor may order laboratory tests to test whether the bacteria are producing toxins that reach the white cells of the body, preventing healing.
The abscess disappears by emptying the infectious content and washing the cavity to remove pus and dead tissue, and is rarely reabsorbed. However, nodules should never be squeezed without the assistance of a healthcare professional, as this can traumatize the tissue around the abscess and spread the infection.
In order for the infection not to deepen in the tissues below the lesion, a hole must be drilled in the affected area in order to perform the drainage. After the procedure, the pus may undergo a laboratory evaluation in order to determine the source of the problem.
Small, superficial lesions can be treated easily with hot water compresses. Contact with heat helps the abscess to rupture and facilitates the exit of the contents from inside. The compresses should be performed at 15 to 20 minutes per hour.
Serious injuries must be treated through surgical drainage. The procedure is performed by a specialized doctor, using a scalpel or a thick needle to drain the infectious material. The surgeon can use computed tomography or ultrasound exams to help guide the needle to the right place.
The surgery is performed with local anesthesia, efficient against pain even in very inflamed lesions. Usually, the patient is allowed to leave the hospital on the same day and recover at home. A small scar may be visible at the drainage site of the abscess.
For the pus to continue to drain, the wound must be kept open by applying a drain to the inflamed site. Dressings with cream or antibiotic ointments should cover the wound until it heals completely. The drain, however, will be removed in two or three days.
Medications for abscess
Abscess drainage provides immediate relief from pain. If it persists, doctors may recommend painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs. Depending on the bacterium or parasite that causes the disease, the use of antibiotics , antifungals or anti-amebic bacteria may be necessary to help eliminate the remaining microorganisms.
The drugs that can be indicated for the treatment of an abscess are:
- Avalox ( moxifloxacin hydrochloride );
- Bacteracin e Bacteracin-F (sulfametoxazol + trimetoprima);
- Bactrim (sulfametoxazol + trimetoprima);
- Bi Profenid;
- Ketoprofen ;
- Clavulin ( amoxicillin + potassium clavulanate );
- Levofloxacin ;
- Nebacetin (sulfato de neomicina + bacitracina).
If the abscess does not disappear after drainage, treatment will require medications to cure the disease. In conditions in which important organs are affected, such as the liver or brain, the lack of treatment can cause tissue damage and functional loss.
NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to tell which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for his specific case. The information contained in this website is only intended to inform, not in any way intended to replace the guidance of a specialist or serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.
Home treatments can be performed when the lesions are small, following the same principle as the methods used in the doctor’s office: use of drugs to break the abscess and drain the fluid from inside.
The following methods have no proven efficacy or guarantee of safety when performing the procedure, so the patient should consult a healthcare professional if the problem persists.
The patient can make a compress at the abscess site with one of the following vegetables:
- Juice of an onion diluted with water;
- Raw and grated carrots;
- Mashed raw cabbage;
- Crushed raw tomato;
- Grated raw yam. Replace every hour for four hours. Preferably, the patient should include yams in the diet.
With one of the following fruits, the patient can make a compress on the spot where the tissue is inflamed:
- Pulp of grated apple;
- Lemon juice and salt;
- Tea from the leaves of the cashew tree;
- Banana stain.
To relieve abscesses, the patient can make tea or compress from the following plants:
- Rosemary: take 4 cups of rosemary tea a day. 20g for 1 liter of water.
- Alfavaca: take 4 cups of lavender tea a day. 30g for 1 liter of water.
- Burdock: apply crushed burdock compresses, changing leaves every 30 minutes.
- Boldo : take 4 cups of boldo tea a day. 30g for 1 liter of water.
- Jurubeba: apply compresses with leaf tea and jurubeba root, changing the leaves every 30 minutes. 100g for 1 liter of water. As another alternative, you can mix the leaves or roots of jurubeba with a cup of honey and another of grated onion. Boil the mixture, place on a clean cloth and apply under the abscess for two hours.
- Marigold : has antiseptic properties, which can fight a future infection. Mix 250ml of boiling water with marigold leaves, leave for 15 minutes and strain. Apply the compress to the affected area.
- Geotherapy: clay compress, preferably green. The clay components help to reduce inflammation and swelling, accelerating the healing process. The paste should be made with two spoons of clay mixed with water, applying under the abscess for 5 to 10 minutes, 3 times a day.
- Bee honey: mix the hot honey poultice with grated onion and manioc flour. Apply on the abscess for 2 hours.
- Hydrotherapy: for 20 minutes, wash the abscess with warm, salt water. Also wash with the mixture of tea leaves and roots of roast fish, 100g to 1 liter of water.
If done correctly, abscesses usually respond well to treatments. Therefore, the patient must carefully follow the instructions and make sure to keep the follow-up appointments, informing the health professional if there is any worsening in his symptoms.
After draining the abscess, the patient should consume plenty of water to help the body to eliminate any remnants that may have remained from the infection. Food should also be taken care of, preferring foods of natural origin, such as vegetables and fruits. Avoid the consumption of foods such as butter, fried foods, eggs, cheeses, canned foods and, preferably, suspend meats of pork origin.
You should not squeeze the pus from the abscess without medical supervision, to prevent bacteria from spreading to other areas of the skin. If the patient uses handkerchiefs or towels to clean the pus, they should be discarded after use and wash their hands thoroughly.
Patients are advised to wait for the abscess to heal before using equipment and places shared with the public, such as gym equipment, saunas and swimming pools.
Abscesses should be treated to prevent it from increasing in thickness and breaking off on its own. If the rupture occurs, the wound will release yellowish or greenish pus, with the presence of the bad smell.
If the patient does not undergo the necessary treatment, it can become a generalized infection. If the infectious material does not drain, the pus can affect, through the skin, internal organs and tissues, making it difficult to cure the disease.
Abscess without treatment can have spontaneous resolution, being reabsorbed, which will form a cyst or fistulas – when the abscess opens and creates a path that joins an external orifice, commonly in the skin, to the interior of a body cavity, which generates entry and accumulation of pus. Abscesses that make fistulas for natural body cavities can give rise to empyema or, if the contents reach the bloodstream, cause bacteremia and sepsis .
An abscess without treatment can cause as many serious complications as:
- Spread the infection to other potentially fatal regions, such as the brain or spinal cord;
- Endocarditis, infection of the inner lining of the heart;
- Death of the tissue in the affected area, such as gangrene;
- Development of new abscesses;
- Osteomyelitis, acute bone infection.
Abscesses are triggered by a deficit in the immune system or by inadequate nutrition. The following measures can be taken to prevent abscesses:
- Adhere to healthier eating habits, with the consumption of raw fruits and vegetables in abundance;
- If the patient is overweight, it is recommended to carry out food re-education in parallel with physical exercises;
- Avoid using alcohol and other drugs;
- Maintain good personal hygiene, washing the skin with soap and water;
- Use towels separate from the rest of the family;
- Take care not to hurt the skin by shaving underarm or leg hair.
Abscess is a disease that can be easily treated, as long as it is in its early stages and has not reached any internal organs. Share this article with your friends and family to alert them to your symptoms and avoid further complications.