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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: 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, ...more misdiagnosis »

Causes of Abscess:

The following medical conditions are some of the possible causes of Abscess. There are likely to be other possible causes, so ask your doctor about your symptoms.

» Review Causes of Abscess: Causes | Symptom Checker »

Causes of Types of Abscess:

Review the causes of these more specific types of Abscess:

Review causes of more specific types of Abscess:

Abscess: Symptom Checker

Listed below are some combinations of symptoms associated with Abscess, as listed in our database. Visit the Symptom Checker, to add and remove symptoms and research your condition.

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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 have debris or a foreign ...Abscess Treatments

Some of the possible treatments listed in sources for treatment of Abscess may include:

Review further information on Abscess Treatments.

Medications or substances causing Abscess:

The following drugs, medications, substances or toxins are some of the possible causes of Abscess as a symptom. Always advise your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using, including prescription, over-the-counter, supplements, herbal or alternative treatments.

Abscess: Comorbid Symptoms

Some of the comorbid or associated medical symptoms for Abscess may include these symptoms:

Causes of General Symptom Types

Research the causes of these more general types of symptom:

Causes of Similar Symptoms to Abscess

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

Abscess: Deaths

Read more about causes and Abscess deaths.

Definitions of Abscess:

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

Detailed list of causes of Abscess

The list below shows some of the causes of Abscess mentioned in various sources:

How Common are these Causes of Abscess?

This information refers to the general prevalence and incidence of these diseases, not to how likely they are to be the actual cause of Abscess. Of the 44 causes of Abscess that we have listed, we have the following prevalence/incidence information:

  • 2 causes are "very common" diseases
  • 4 causes are "common" diseases
  • 2 causes are "uncommon" diseases
  • 0 causes are "rare" diseases
  • 5 causes are "very rare" diseases
  • 34 causes have no prevalence information.

Conditions listing medical symptoms: Abscess:

The following list of conditions have 'Abscess' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.

Select from the following alphabetical view of conditions which include a symptom of Abscess or choose View All.

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Conditions listing medical complications: Abscess:

The following list of medical conditions have Abscess or similar listed as a medical complication in our database. The distinction between a symptom and complication is not always clear, and conditions mentioning this symptom as a complication may also be relevant. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.














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Causes of Abscess Based on Risk Factors

This information shows analysis of the list of causes of Abscess based on whether certain risk factors apply to the patient:

  • Travel - has the patient travelled recently?
  • Diabetes - history of diabetes or family history of diabetes?

    Classifications of Abscess:

    Subtypes of Abscess:

    Chronic abscess (12 causes)

    Medical Conditions associated with Abscess:

    Pus (54 causes), Sores (467 causes), Infection-related symptoms (1293 causes), Skin symptoms (5992 causes), Skin problems (3422 causes)

    Symptoms related to Abscess:

    Swelling (3730 causes), Pus symptoms, Infection (1293 causes), Ulcer (24 causes), Skin ulcer (38 causes), Bruise (348 causes), Collection of pus, Brain tumors, Breast abscess (5 causes), Pilonidal sinus, Pilonidal abscess, Incision and drainage

    Medical articles on signs and symptoms:

    Doctor-patient articles related to symptoms and diagnosis:

    These general medical articles may be of interest:

    Medical News summaries about Abscess

    Our news pages contain the following medical news summaries about Abscess and many other medical conditions:

    Related medical articles from our Disease Center for Abscess:

    More Ways To Research Medical Signs and Symptoms:


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