A skin abscess is a buildup of pus in or on the skin.
Skin abscesses are common and affect people of all ages. They occur when an infection causes pus to collect in the skin.
Skin abscesses may occur after developing:
A skin abscess may occur anywhere on the body.
Symptoms may include:
Your health care provider can diagnose the problem by looking at the affected area. The drainage from the sore may be sent to the lab for a culture. This can help identify the cause of the infection.
You can apply moist heat (such as warm compresses) to help the abscess drain and heal faster. DO NOT push and squeeze on the abscess.
Your provider may cut open the abscess and drain it. If this is done:
You may need to take antibiotics by mouth to control the infection.
If you have methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or another staph infection, follow instructions for self-care at home.
Most skin abscesses can be cured with proper treatment. Infections caused by MRSA respond to specific antibiotics.
Complications that can occur from an abscess include:
Call your provider if you have any signs of skin infection, including:
Call your provider right away if you develop new symptoms during or after treatment of a skin abscess.
Keep the skin around minor wounds clean and dry to prevent infection. Call your provider if you notice signs of infection. Take care of minor infections promptly.
Reviewed By: David L. Swanson, MD, Vice Chair of Medical Dermatology, Associate Professor of Dermatology, Mayo Medical School, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.