When Does an Abscess Require Surgery?

Do you know the difference between a pimple, a cyst, and an abscess? When you spot an angry red spot on your body, your first inclination may be to poke and prod at the bump. But it’s best to let it alone to see how it develops before deciding on the best course of action. 

A pimple will probably develop a head and then eventually go away on its own. Cysts and abscesses may also run their course and disappear before they become an issue.

But what happens when an abscess won’t go away? As an abscess grows, it becomes more painful and surgery may be necessary. The best way to know if your abscess needs surgical intervention is to come see our team at South Florida Surgical Group. Steven Kanter, MD, FACS, and Michael Renfrow, MD, FACS are board-certified surgeons who can evaluate your condition and prescribe the best treatment.

What is an abscess?

An abscess is a painful, pus-filled bump that begins as an infection in the skin, often in a hair follicle or oil gland. When the infection starts, your skin turns red and a small bump appears. This is because your body’s immune system is trying to isolate the infection and stop it before it spreads. Your immune system also sends white blood cells to the area.

Over time the white blood cells die, and then combine with bacteria and other debris to form pus. As the infection lingers, your body keeps sending more white blood cells, and the buildup of pus grows. 

Symptoms that indicate a worsening abscess

The abscess can be painful or warm to the touch. In some cases, a head may form and you may be able to see the pus inside. Despite this, do not try to pop the abscess, even if it leaks pus. Squeezing can potentially drive the infection deeper into your body. 

You may experience the following as the infections worsens:

If the infection reaches your bloodstream, sepsis, which is a life-threatening illness, can occur.

When an abscess needs surgery

The above-listed symptoms do not occur at the start of an abscess but rather once the abscess is well-developed. If your abscess has progressed to this point, it probably needs to be surgically drained and treated. Again, the best way to know whether your abscess needs intervention is to come in to see us for an evaluation.

If your abscess does need treatment, we do it right in our office at South Florida Surgical Group. After applying a local anesthetic, your surgeon makes a small incision to drain the abscess. If it’s especially deep, the doctor may pack the wound with a special dressing designed to soak up any remaining fluid. You may need to take antibiotics after the procedure for more serious infections.

Don’t delay treatment if you have a painful abscess. Contact our office in Miami, Florida, to schedule a same-day or next-day appointment.

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