Skin inflammatory (nontumor)
Dermal non-granulomatous granulocyte-rich reaction patterns

Topic Completed: 1 May 2016

Revised: 27 March 2019

Copyright: 2003-2019,, Inc.

PubMed Search: Skin abscess[title]

Abha Soni, D.O., M.P.H.
Page views in 2018: 6,753
Page views in 2019 to date: 4,768
Cite this page: Soni A Abscess. website. Accessed August 19th, 2019.
Definition / general
  • Latin: abscessus
  • A skin abscess represents a localized collection of pus that generally develops in response to infection or to the presence of other foreign materials under the skin; formed by tissue disintegration and surrounded by an inflamed area
Essential features
  • Destruction of tissue
  • Addition of fibrin and neutrophils
  • Skin abscesses are often referred to as boils
  • Develops in patients of all age groups
  • Typically caused by either an inflammatory reaction to an infectious process (bacteria or parasite) or, less commonly, to a foreign substance within the body (a needle or a splinter, for example)
  • Abscesses may develop because of obstructed oil (sebaceous) or sweat glands, inflammation of hair follicles, or from minor breaks and punctures of the skin; abscesses may also develop after a surgical procedure
  • The most common bacterial organism is Staphylococcus aureus, although various other organisms can also lead to abscess formation
Clinical features
  • An abscess is typically painful, and it appears as a warm, swollen area
  • Hospitalizations for skin abscesses may be increasing (Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis 2011;31:93)
  • The skin surrounding an abscess typically appears pink / red
  • The middle is filled with pus and debris
  • Antibiotics alone will not typically cure a skin abscess
  • In general, abscesses must be opened and drained to start healing process
Case reports
Clinical images

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Microscopic (histologic) description
  • Cavity usually located on the dermis containing inflammatory infiltrate with abundant neutrophils and necrotic debris
  • The cavity is usually surrounded by inflammatory infiltrate
  • There is also subepidermal edema
Positive stains
  • Gram positive or negative if of bacterial origin
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