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Most Common Causes of Abscesses

Most Common Causes of Abscesses

You’ve come to the doctor because you have a sore on your body — a raised mass that’s red and painful. You have an abscess. 

At Health Solutions, our primary care services focus on disease prevention as well as care and management of chronic conditions. Our board-certified physicians can promptly diagnose and treat your abscess. We talk with you to discover how you got the abscess, and to discuss what changes you can make to help prevent another from forming.

What is an abscess?

Almost all abscesses are a sign of a bacterial infection. They appear as red, painful raised bumps, and may be swollen. They are filled with pus from bacteria. 

Abscesses can appear anywhere on your body. Skin abscesses are the most common type, but they can also develop in your mouth and on your spinal cord and internal organs.

What causes an abscess?

If you have a cut on your skin, it’s easy for bacteria to enter your body. Your body’s white blood cells rush to the area to try to destroy the invader. Tissue around the cut may die, leaving a hole. The hole harbors some of the dead skin cells and bacteria, which eventually liquify and become pus under your skin. It presses against the skin and causes a raised bump. You have an abscess. 

Following are common causes of abscesses.

A weakened immune system

One of the most common causes of an abscess is a compromised immune system. If you have had an illness, have a chronic disease, or have been in an accident, you’re more at risk for an abscess because your body is weakened and can’t ward off the bacteria around an opening in your skin. 

People with diabetes are at particular risk for abscesses. If your diabetes isn’t controlled well and your blood sugar levels spike, you may have damage to your blood vessels. This can impede blood flow to your skin. Your body can’t send enough infection-fighting white blood cells to the target area. 

Likewise, if you’re fighting cancer or have a disease like AIDs, sickle cell disease, or Crohn's disease, you’re at increased risk of an abscess.

Poor circulation

If you have peripheral vascular disease (PVD), plaque has built up on the walls of your blood vessels, causing them to become very narrow. PVD often affects your legs and/or feet. 

Many people with diabetes have PVD. Because your blood vessels are narrow, you have poor circulation. Your skin can become thin and unhealthy because it’s not getting proper blood flow. It can tear, leaving you at risk for an abscess.

Dirty environments

If your work involves dirt and grime or working in an environment where you might get hurt, such as a construction site, you’re at risk for an infection that could turn into an abscess. Proper hygiene is critical to ensure your health.

Sweat gland obstruction/inflammation of a hair follicle

Bacteria love moist environments. If a sweat gland in your armpit is obstructed, an abscess could result. Likewise, an inflamed hair follicle can cause an abscess.

Treatment of abscesses

If you have an abscess on your skin, it needs to be drained. Your doctor gives you a local anesthetic to numb the area, then makes a tiny cut and drains the pus. Afterward, we sterilize the area and apply a clean bandage. We give you instructions for care when you go home. You may receive an antibiotic.

Your doctor diagnoses an internal abscess via ultrasound, CT scan, and/or MRI. Treatment is with needle aspiration in a sterile environment. 

To prevent future abscesses, we help you review your hygiene protocols and strengthen them. 

Call Health Solutions at one of our four convenient locations in Illinois and Indiana, or book an appointment online today for expert primary care.

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