A skin abscess or boil is basically a bump inside or beneath the surface of the skin. This lump is typically filled with pus or clear fluid that is triggered by a bacterial infection. A skin abscess can develop on any region. Nevertheless, an abscess typically develops on the face, back or buttocks. These abscesses might also develop in areas where hair grows such as the groin or underarms.
Most cases of skin abscesses are relatively harmless and subside without treatment. Over-the-counter medications and creams can be used to hasten the healing process of a minor skin abscess. Oftentimes, an abscess can be harder to manage and might necessitate laceration or drainage. Nevertheless, there are instances in which an abscess can progress to a serious or even life-threatening complications if left untreated.
What are the usual causes of a skin abscess?
Staphylococcus is the most prevalent bacteria responsible for a skin abscess. This occurs once the bacteria enter the body via a hair follicle or wound that punctured or broken the skin. An individual is at higher risk for this bacterial infection if the following are present:
- Close contact with an infected individual
- Chronic skin disease such as eczema or acne
- Poor hygiene habits
- Weakened immune system due to infections such as HIV
Infected hair follicles
If the hair follicles are infected, it can lead to the formation of a skin abscess. The follicles can end up infected once the hair inside the follicle is ensnared and could not move out of the skin.
The stuck hair follicles are usually called as ingrown hairs. An ingrown is responsible for allowing the infection to develop. Remember that the abscesses which are on or in a hair follicle might contain the ingrown hair.
How to identify a skin abscess
A skin abscess often develops as a lump on the skin that is similar to a pimple. Nevertheless, it can grow over time and appear similar to a cyst that is filled with fluid. Depending on the exact cause of the abscess, other symptoms might also be present such as the following:
- Inflamed skin
- Skin lesions
- Drainage of fluid from the abscess
Take note that the area surrounding the skin abscess might also feel warm to the touch and painful.
It is not always possible to prevent a skin abscess from forming. Nevertheless, there are measures that can minimize the risk of developing a staph infection that usually leads to an abscess. Measures to reduce the risk include the following:
- Regular hand washing
- Keeping wounds and cuts properly bandaged
- Cleaning scrapes and cuts even minor ones using water and soap and applying an over-the-counter antibacterial ointment
It is not advisable to share personal items such as sheets, towels, athletic gear, razors, clothing and makeup. If an individual has a sore or cut, it is vital to wash towels and bedding under hot water, detergent and bleach regularly and dry using the hottest setting.