Abscess is a localized collection of pus. A minute abscess is known as a pustule, a diffused production of pus is known as a cellulitis or erysipelas. Abscess may be acute or chronic. An acute abscess is which develops rapidly within the course of a few days or hours. It is characterized by a definite set of symptoms.
Causes The direct cause is various bacteria. Sometimes the presence of foreign bodies, such as bulletso r splinters may produce abscesses, but these foreign bodies may remain buried in tissues without causing any trouble provided they are not contaminated with bacteria or other micro-organism.
The micro-organisms most frequently found are staphylococci, and next to these streptococci, though the latter cause more virulent abscesses. Other abscess-forming organisms are Pseudomonas pyocyanes and Escherichia coli, which lives always in bowels, and under certain conditions wanders into surrounding tissues and produces abcesses.
The presence of micro-organisms is not sufficient to produce suppuration, streptococci can often be found on the skin and in the skin glands of perfectly healthy individuals.. Whether they will produce abscesses or not depends upon the virulence of the organism and the individual's natural resistance.
When bacteria have gained access, for example, for a wound, they rapidly multiply, produce toxins, cause local dilatation of the blood vessels, slowing of the blood-stream, and exudation of blood corpuscles and fluid. The leucocytes or white corpuscles of the blood collect around the invaded area, and destroy the latter either by consuming them, or by forming a toxin that kills them. If the body’s local defence mechanisms fail to do this, the abscess will spread and may in severe cases cause generalized infection or septicaemia.
Sympstoms The classic sympstoms of inflammation are redness, warmth, swelling, pain and fever. The lymph nodes is the neighbourhood may be swollen and tender in an attempt to stop bacteria spreading to other parts of the body. Infection also causes an increase in the number of leucocytes in the blood. Immediately the abscess is opened, or bursts, the pain disappears, the temperature falls rapidly to normal, and healing proceeds. If, however, the abscess discharges into an internal cavity, such as a bowel or bladder, it may heal slowly or become chronic resulting in the patient’s ill health.
Treatment Most local infections of the skin respond to antibiotics. If pus forms the abscess should be surgically opened and drained. Abscesses can occur in any tissue in the body but the principles of treatment are broadly the same, use of an antibiotic and, there appropriate, surgery