Abscesses are caused by obstruction of oil (sebaceous) glands or sweat glands, inflammation of hair follicles, or minor breaks and punctures of the skin. Germs get under the skin or into these glands, which causes an inflammatory response as your body’s defenses try to kill these germs.
The middle of the abscess liquefies and contains dead cells, bacteria, and other debris. This area begins to grow, creating tension under the skin and further inflammation of the surrounding tissues. Pressure and inflammation cause the pain.
People with weakened immune systems get certain abscesses more often. Those with any of the following are all at risk for having more severe abscesses. This is because the body has a decreased ability to ward off infections.
Chronic steroid therapy
Sickle cell disease
Peripheral vascular disorders
Alcoholism or IV drug abuse
Other risk factors for abscess include exposure to dirty environments, exposure to persons with certain types of skin infections, poor hygiene, and poor circulation.
Most often, an abscess becomes a painful, compressible mass that is red, warm to touch, and tender.
As some abscesses progress, they may “point” and come to a head so you can see the material inside and then spontaneously open (rupture).
Most will continue to get worse without care. The infection can spread to the tissues under the skin and even into the bloodstream.
If the infection spreads into deeper tissue, you may develop a fever and begin to feel ill.