An abscess may occur on any part of the body, or may occur internally. This is particularly the case with the vital organs, and especially the reproductive glands of women. One may notice pain in the area around the uterus or ovaries, suggesting the presence of an abscess or cyst.
All abscesses are the result of bacteria accumulating in a “pocket” of the body. The body responds by walling off the collection of pus, so that it is sealed from the body. However, this pocket may drain or burst creating infection in the blood.
The first goal in treating an abscess is to seek medical advice. Even one on the skin can lead to blood infection when it bursts. Most need to be treated with antibiotics to completely resolve.
It is, of course, quite difficult to treat an abscess located inside the body. Applying a heating pad over an abscessed ovary may provide some comfort. However, normally, antibiotics and pain medication are the prescribed treatment.
Usually those that affect the skin have other treatment options combined with taking oral antibiotics. Some treatments can help reduce time an abscess remains on the skin and can as well help to reduce pain.
One of the gold standard recommendations for treating a skin abscess is to apply warm compresses to the site for 10-15 minutes four times a day. Doctors suggest using tap water on a washcloth that is as hot as one can tolerate. Sometimes, tap water heat may be set too high, and it may not feel to the hands as though the water is too hot.
If one is unsure about the heat of the cloth, apply the warmed washcloth to a more sensitive area like a forearm. If it feels too hot, do not apply it to the abscess. It does not need to be complicated by burned skin tissue. As well, consider turning down the heat on the water heater to avoid burning one’s self in the future.
Hot compresses allow the abscess to resolve sooner, and drain sooner. They also may provide relief from pain. Even a small one on the skin can be quite painful.
If it is located on a limb, or the hands or feet, consider elevating that limb when possible. This can also help resolve the abscess sooner. It can also help keep the pocket from swelling.
If one is treating the area with a compress and it bursts, be certain to wash the hands carefully. As well, wash the area around the skin to clean up any pus. When the abscess bursts it can spread bacteria to other skin cells.
When one is on a treatment course of antibiotics, and the abscess appears to get worse, or larger, contact a physician again. In some cases, a stronger antibiotic may be required to destroy the bacteria present. Also note signs for greater infection like a significant increase in pain, or red streaks present on the skin that seem to shoot out from it. These may indicate resistant infection.
Failure to treat an abscess can cause significant tissue damage, including gangrene. If the area begins to smell badly, or if the tissue surrounding it appears to be swelling significantly, contact a doctor immediately. Some bacteria are more difficult to treat and may warrant intravenous (IV) antibiotics.