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Abscess: Introduction

An abscess is a hollow space in the body that is filled with pus and surrounded by inflamed tissue. Abscesses can be serious and lead to gangrene and permanent organ damage if they are not recognized and treated promptly.

An abscess forms from a bacterial infection, parasitic infection or foreign body and can develop in many places in the body. One type of bacteria that commonly causes abscesses is Staphylococcus aureus. Examples of abscesses include skin abscess, brain abscess, lung abscess, kidney abscess, bones abscess, abdominal abscess, rectal abscess, breast abscess, liver abscess, spinal cord abscess and tooth abscess.

An abscess develops when harmful bacteria or parasites infect an area of body tissue, such as the gums or the skin. The body tries to attack the infection by sending a surge of white blood cells (infection fighting cells) to the infected area. During this process living and dead white blood cells, fluid, bacteria, and dead tissue collect within the diseased tissue and form pus. The surrounding tissue also becomes inflamed and painful.

Symptoms and complications of an abscess vary depending on the area of the body where it develops. Symptoms often include swelling and pain. Some types of abscesses can lead to serious, even life-threatening complications, such as sepsis, kidney failure, shock, and death. For more information on complications and symptoms, refer to symptoms of abscess.

People at risk for an abscess and its complications include those who have a compromised immune system due to such diseases as HIV/AIDS or combined immunodeficiencies. People who take certain medications, such as corticosteroids or chemotherapy, which suppress the body's natural immune response, are also at risk for contracting an abscess. Other risk factors include having diabetes, cancer, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, severe burns, or severe trauma.

Making a diagnosis of an abscess begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. The types of diagnostic testing performed for a suspected abscess varies depending on the symptoms. A complete blood count (CBC) is a blood test is often performed. A complete blood count measures the numbers of different types of blood cells, including white blood cells (WBCs). Different types of WBCs increase in number in characteristic ways during an infectious or inflammatory process, such as an abscess.

A culture and sensitivity test (C and S) may also be performed and involves taking a small sample from the abscess and growing it in the laboratory. This test determines the type of organism causing the abscess, as well as which antibiotics would be most effective in treating it.

Imaging tests, such as X-ray, CT, or MRI, may be performed to assist in the diagnosis of some internal abscesses, such as a pancreatic abscess, liver abscess or kidney abscess. Additional tests may be performed in order to rule out or confirm other diseases that may accompany an abscess or cause similar symptoms.

It is possible that a diagnosis of an abscess can be missed or delayed because some symptoms, such as fever and inflammation are similar to symptoms of other diseases of conditions. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of abscess.

Treatment of an abscess varies depending on its location and other diseases and conditions that may coexist with the abscess. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of abscess. ...more »

Abscess: General name for any pus-filled lump or swelling. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Abscess is available below.

Abscess: Symptoms

General symptoms of an abscess include swelling, redness, inflammation, and pain or tenderness in the affected area. These are the classic symptoms of a skin abscess, also known as a boil.

Symptoms of internal abscesses, such as a brain abscess or a liver abscess, differ depending on the type of abscess and the area of the body that is affected. Symptoms can include fever, chills ...more symptoms »

Abscess: Treatments

The first step in treating abscesses is preventing their occurrence. Prevention includes maintaining good personal hygiene with frequent hand washing and washing the body with soap and water.

It is also important to see a licensed medical provider for any deep puncture wounds, severe burns, human or animal bites or wounds or lacerations that may ...more treatments »

Abscess: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of an abscess may be delayed because some symptoms may initially be nonspecific or mild. These include swelling, redness, and tenderness to the area where the abscess is forming. Other symptoms, such as fever, chills, and severe pain to affected area may be initially be assumed to be related to various infectious diseases or inflammatory processes, such as pelvic ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Abscess

Treatments for Abscess

Wrongly Diagnosed with Abscess?

Abscess: Related Patient Stories

Abscess: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Abscess.

Types of Abscess

Diagnostic Tests for Abscess

  • Pus swab test - to identify the type of bacteria causing the abscess.
  • Needle aspiration of fluid (pus) in abscess - to identify the type of bacteria causing the abscess.
  • more tests...»

Causes of Abscess

More information about causes of Abscess:

Disease Topics Related To Abscess

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Abscess:

Research about Abscess

Visit our research pages for current research about Abscess treatments.

Clinical Trials for Abscess

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Abscess include:

Statistics for Abscess

Abscess: Broader Related Topics

Abscess Message Boards

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User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Abscess, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Definitions of Abscess:

Symptom consisting of a localized collection of pus surrounded by inflamed tissue - (Source - WordNet 2.1)


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