Skin abscess

Alternative Names

Abscess – skin; Cutaneous abscess; Subcutaneous abscess

Definition of Skin abscess

A skin abscess is a collection of pus and infected material in or on the skin.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Skin abscesses are fairly common. They occur when an infection causes pus and infected material to collect in the skin.

Signs and tests

Your doctor can diagnose the condition based on the appearance of the area. A culture or examination of any drainage from the lesion may help identify what organism is causing it.


Moist heat (such as warm compresses) may speed healing and may help a skin abscess drain. DO NOT push and squeeze on the abscess.

Expectations (prognosis)

Most skin abscesses can be cured with proper treatment. More often now, the bacteria does not respond to regular antibiotics. This is called methicillin-resistant staph aureus (MRSA).


Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 10/10/2010

Skin layers

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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