Cellulitis is a serious deep skin infection. An abscess is a pus pocket that forms at the site of tissue that’s been infected, causing pain, swelling, redness and tenderness. Bacteria grow and spread at the site of these infections and they often require treatment by a health professional. A more concerning form of cellulitis is when one gets a Staph infection (particularly from the drug resistant form called MRSA – Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus). This form of infection may lead to hospitalization if a patient is not seen by their doctor in time.
- Inflammation around a wound or recent surgical suture
- Swelling or pain in the throat or near the tonsils that may even block swallowing, speaking and even breathing
- An impacted tooth or infected gum might lead to an abscess that will make biting and chewing painful, with radiating pain down the neck
- Inflammation around a hair follicle or sweat gland, especially in the armpit or genital region, possibly on the buttocks
- Anal inflammation can occur in circumstances surrounding diabetes, AIDS or HIV infection, Crohn’s disease or in persons with a suppressed immune system
- Fever will often accompany an infection
Who is at risk?
Anyone might incur an infection, but you need to be especially watchful if you have recently had stitches or an injury that has broken the skin. Nursing mothers may be susceptible to abscess if a milk duct is blocked.
In most cases, your doctor will need to inject a local anesthetic over the abscess and cut open the abscess to remove pus and infectious material. If large, this area will usually be packed with strips of gauze to keep the abscess from re-accumulating. A tetanus shot and antibiotics might be in order depending on the level of the infection.
Emergency Warning Signs: When should I see a doctor?
Emergency medical care could be in order if the abscess is accompanied by a fever higher than 101°F or if the abscess measures more than half an inch. If red streaks radiate from a possible infection site, seek medical attention right away. If you have surgery or stitches, ask your doctor for instructions on assessing the signs of infection, how to treat it at home, and when to report an infection to your doctor. When any infection renders the patient incapable of functioning – breathing properly, eating, working – normally, seek medical care right away.
For more information on abscesses, see the following websites:
MedlinePlus (NIH) Cellulitis page
Medline Plus (NIH) Abscess page
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