A skin abscess or boil is a pocket of pus that develops in the skin. Inflammation may cause a boil to occur around a hair follicle or sweat gland, but any area of the skin may be the site of an abscess caused by bacterial infection. There may be no apparent cause for the boil, or it may have a direct cause such as severe cystic acne, a spider bite, or a staph infection. The area will typically feel as though there is a semi-hard lump under the skin surrounded by redness. It will generally be swollen, warm, and painful to the touch. The lump may rupture and ooze pus, or it may remain closed.

Potential Treatment

A small boil (less than half an inch in diameter) may be treated with a warm compress. You can use a hot potato wrapped in a wet washcloth for this purpose. Press it gently against the boil for 30 minutes 3-4 times a day. If the boil does not resolve within a few days, or if it becomes worse, see a dermatologist for further treatment.A large abscess should be drained promptly to prevent systemic infection and reduce the risk of necrosis (cell death) in your skin. Pressing on the boil may cause it to rupture into the surrounding tissue and spread bacteria further. Puncturing it with a needle or other sharp item may also lead to additional infection and you may hit a blood vessel. You should have a dermatologist lance and drain the skin abscess to ensure the procedure is done in a safe and sterile manner.

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