Got an abscess? Need to know what to do at home to help the pain, help it heal and prevent further recurrences? Read on to help with this and also a rundown of common medical abscess treatment.
An abscess is a cyst or capsule containing pus, dead skin cells and tissues and bacteria. The dead skin cells invite bacteria to grow and multiply. This will also make the pus bigger and infect a larger area of the surrounding skin. The most common abscesses are found in the gums, buttocks (pilodinal abscess), breasts and moist areas like the armpits and groin.
Abscesses must not be pricked as this can further infect the area making the condition worse. It must be treated, and there are several treatment options available. Let’s look at these options for treatment now:
Medical Treatment of an Abscess
Here is a run-through of the treatments that our doctors can provide for an abscess:
Antibiotics are prescribed to stop bacteria from growing and multiplying. Thus, the healing is faster with these medications.
Antibiotic treatment for abscess may come in the form of capsule or tablet, topical and injection. The commonly prescribed antibiotics are the oral and the topical ones. The injectable antibiotics are prescribed for severe cases, wherein the infection had spread to a nearby organ or to the entire body.
Antibiotic medicines are prescribed by the doctor. Since these medicines may cause an allergic reaction, only take them when prescribed. Allergy can be from as mild as an itchiness, to as severe as an anaphylactic shock (which can lead to difficulty with breathing and other life-threatening symptoms). The doctor may perform an allergy test first before prescribing the antibiotic. This is to check if you have any allergic reaction to the medicine. You must also inform your doctor if you are taking any medications, if you have any underlying diseases and if you are undergoing chemotherapy. Antibiotics, just like any other medication, must not be self-prescribed.
When your doctor assesses this is possible, needle aspiration is a great treatment, used to drain the pus. The area is cleansed and a sterile needle is inserted to the abscess to drain out the pus. Afterwards, a sterile gauze will be secured in place. The procedure may need to be repeated if the pus continues to accumulate.
Surgical treatment for an abscess is usually done on an outpatient basis (no hospital admission needed). However, there are times when an admission is deemed necessary.
Surgical debridement or incision of the abscess is done under local anesthesia (a numbing medicine). A general anesthesia (a mask is secured to cover the mouth and nose, putting the patient to sleep) may also be needed depending on the depth and size of the problem.
This is a sterile procedure where dead tissues are removed by means of incision. Dead tissues are removed because they invite the bacteria to grow and multiply. In addition, they decrease the blood circulation to the area with pus. Therefore, this must be taken out immediately.
Proper wound care – after the surgery, proper wound care must be rendered to avoid infection to the site. Wash your hands first. Clean the wound with sterile water and dry it with sterile gauze. Apply medicine (if any) and secure with dry or moist gauze, as indicated by your physician.
Take your medicines on schedule and do not skip them. Visit your physician for the follow-up check up. This is to check for your progress. The medications may be adjusted (dosage and frequency). The wound will also be assessed.
Home Care of an Abscess
The exact abscess treatment and prevention techniques will depend on your own circumstances. We will use a few examples to demonstrate some home care practices, as the principles are the same for many abscesses:
Home care and prevention of breast, armpits, groin and pilodinal abscess (abscess in the buttocks):
- Proper hygiene– Bathe daily and regularly change clothes. Bathing will remove sweat, oil and dirt from the skin that may possibly block the pores and sweat glands. For the lower spinal area (buttocks), make this area free from hair by means of shaving, waxing or laser hair removal. As loose hair can penetrate the skin and may cause an infection to occur.
- Balanced diet – Choose a diet that is low in fat, salt and sugar. Avoid chips, junk foods and sodas. Prepare meals based on the food pyramid. In this way, you will get all the nutrients the body needs.
- Weight loss –The Body Mass Index (BMI) is computed to determine if your height is appropriate to your weight. The normal BMI is 18.5–24.9. Below this range means underweight and above 24.9 means overweight. Ideal weight must be obtained to prevent other diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. In addition, a heavy weight puts pressure on the lower spine, making overweight people at risk for abscess in the buttocks.
- Avoid oily products – oily products such as massage oils, lotions and creams can block the pores and sweat glands.
- Warm compress – soothes, reduce pain and helps promote good blood circulation in the area.
Home care and prevention tips for a gum abscess:
- Diet – prepare a nutritious meal that is also mechanically soft (soft to chew) like oatmeal, soups and gelatin. Fruits may also be served by blending them to make a shake or puree. Vegetables may be steamed and mash to make them soft to chew.
- Proper dental hygiene. Brush teeth daily and gently to avoid hitting the gum abscess.
- Quit bad habits like smoking and alcohol intake – this can allow bacteria to multiply faster in the mouth and may cause an infection to form.
- Visit the dentist once every 3 to 6 months for a thorough dental assessment.
This page is meant as a general guide to abscess treatment. For specific information on each type of abscess see the individual pages. Always seek expert advice from your own doctor.