How to Get Rid of an Abscess

An 'Abscess' or a 'Boil', is a localized collection of pus (yellowish-white fluid) which occurs as a result of acute or chronic inflammation (body's immediate response to foreign agents: bacteria, viruses etc.) in a specific region of your body.

Abscesses can occur not only on the skin but also inside your lung, brain or any other organ and can lead to more complicated outcomes if not identified early. It is commonly referred to as a 'Boil' when it appears on your skin. And one of the worst things you can have is a 'tooth abscess' which can be really painful.

When there is ongoing inflammation somewhere; the affected cells start to swell, redden, increase in temperature and produce an exudate (pus) which comes out as a fluid filled red-hot boil. Abscesses themselves are not contagious, but the infection-causing bacteria such as Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas are. These bacteria start to colonize our skin when our hygiene becomes poor or when our immunity is compromised.

You will have to seek medical care if;

• You have a boil larger than 1 cm or a half-inch across,
• The boil continues to enlarge or becomes more painful,
• The boil is on or near your rectal or groin area,
• You have an associated fever of 101.5°F or higher,
• You have a red streak going away from the abscess,
• You have tender, swollen lymph nodes in the proximity,
• You have any medical conditions such as cancer or diabetes, or
• You are on any long term drugs which can compromise your immunity.

Most boils resolve spontaneously or with minor home remedies such as hot packs and hot baths. Heating the area increase the blood flow to the abscess, and brings in more white blood cells and other blood components which improve the body's ability to fight the causative agent.

The ones which don't may require surgical drainage, where your doctor will cut the abscess open and drain the pus. This procedure involves the following steps:

1. The area around the Abscess will be numbed.

The doctor will inject an anesthetic drug (e.g. Lignocaine) to the area around the abscess. You will feel what is being done, but you won't feel the pain. While most of the abscesses are drained under local anesthesia which benumbs only the affected area, some may require sedation or general anesthesia.

2. The area around the abscess will be cleaned.

The surrounding area will be covered with sterile towels and will be cleaned by an antiseptic solution.

3. The abscess will be cut open.

The doctor will cut the abscess open with the scalpel, drain all the pus and debris out of it, and clean the whole area.

4. The remaining cavity will be packed and bandaged.

Once the abscess is completely drained, the remaining cavity like lesion requires packing with gauze to minimize bleeding and exposure. A bandage will be placed over the packing and general instructions about home care will be given.

5. Antibiotics and pain killers will be given.

The doctor will prescribe you antibiotics to cure the infection and to prevent further infection. Also if you are still in pain, pain killers will relieve you.

6. Follow up.

The doctor may ask you to remove the packing yourself after 2-3 days, with soaking and flushing. You will have to contact your doctor if there is increased pain, poorly healed wound or persistent fever.

While most of the Abscesses we encounter in our day to day life are skin or tooth abscesses, they can rarely occur within our internal organs as well. These are diagnosed by symptoms, signs, lab tests and radiological investigations (e.g. X-ray).

After reading everything about cure, some of you might be wondering about prevention. Well... it is simple, just focus on keeping your body and environment clean.

By Rizni Ahamed

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