Find out more about Abscess treatment causes and solutions
There are two types of abscesses, septic and sterile. Most abscesses are septic, which means that they are the result of an infection. Septic abscesses can occur anywhere in the body. Only a germ and the body’s immune response are required. In response to the invading germ, white blood cells gather at the infected site and begin producing chemicals called enzymes that attack the germ by digesting it. These enzymes act like acid, killing the germs and breaking them down into small pieces that can be picked up by the circulation and eliminated from the body. Unfortunately, these chemicals also digest body tissues. In most cases, the germ produces similar chemicals.
The result is a thick, yellow liquid&mdashus—containing digested germs, digested tissue, white blood cells, and enzymes. An abscess is the last stage of a tissue infection that begins with a process called inflammation. Initially, as the invading germ activates the body’s immune system, several events occur:
• Blood flow to the area increases.
• The temperature of the area increases due to the increased blood supply.
• The area swells due to the accumulation of water, blood, and other liquids.
• It turns red.
• It hurts, because of the irritation from the swelling and the chemical activity.
These four signs—heat, swelling, redness, and pain— characterize inflammation. As the process progresses, the tissue begins to turn to liquid, and an abscess forms. It is the nature of an abscess to spread as the chemical digestion liquefies more and more tissue.
Furthermore, the spreading follows the path of least resistance—the tissues most easily digested. A good example is an abscess just beneath the skin. It most easily continues along beneath the skin rather than working its way through the skin where it could drain its toxic contents.
The contents of the abscess also leak into the general circulation and produce symptoms just like any other infection. These include chills, fever, aching, and general discomfort. Sterile abscesses are sometimes a milder form of the same process caused not by germs but by non-living irritants such as drugs. If an injected drug like penicillin is not absorbed, it stays where it was injected and may cause enough irritation to generate a sterile abscess— sterile because there is no infection involved. Sterile abscesses are quite likely to turn into hard, solid lumps as they scar, rather than remaining pockets of pus.
Causes and symptoms Many different agents cause abscesses. The most common are the pus-forming (pyogenic) bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, which is nearly always the cause of abscesses under the skin. Abscesses near the large bowel, particularly around the anus, may be caused by any of the numerous bacteria found within the large bowel. Brain abscesses and liver abscesses can be caused by any organism that can travel there through the circulation. Bacteria, amoeba, and certain fungi can travel in this fashion.
Abscesses in other parts of the body are caused by organisms that normally inhabit nearby structures or that infect them. Some common causes of specific abscesses are:
• skin abscesses by normal skin flora
• dental and throat abscesses by mouth flora
• lung abscesses by normal airway flora, pneumonia germs, or tuberculosis
• abdominal and anal abscesses by normal bowel flora Specific types of abscesses
Listed below are some of the more common and important abscesses.
• Carbuncles and other boils. Skin oil glands (sebaceous glands) on the back or the back of the neck are the ones usually infected. The most common germ involved is Staphylococcus aureus. Acne is a similar condition of sebaceous glands on the face and back.
• Pilonidal abscess. Many people have as a birth defect a tiny opening in the skin just above the anus. Fecal bacteria can enter this opening, causing an infection and subsequent abscess.
Since skin is very resistant to the spread of infection, it acts as a barrier, often keeping the toxic chemicals of an abscess from escaping the body on their own. Thus, the pus must be drained from the abscess by a physician. The surgeon determines when the abscess is ready for drainage and opens a path to the outside, allowing the pus to escape. Ordinarily, the body handles the remaining infection, sometimes with the help of antibiotics or other drugs. The surgeon may leave a drain (a piece of cloth or rubber) in the abscess cavity to prevent it from closing before all the pus has drained out.
If an abscess is directly beneath the skin, it will be slowly working its way through the skin as it is more rapidly working its way elsewhere. Since chemicals work faster at higher temperatures, applications of hot compresses to the skin over the abscess will hasten the digestion of the skin and eventually result in its breaking down, releasing the pus spontaneously. This treatment is best reserved for smaller abscesses in relatively less dangerous areas of the body—limbs, trunk, back of the neck. It is also useful for all superficial abscesses in their very early stages. It will “ripen” them. Contrast hydrotherapy, alternating hot and cold compresses, can also help assist the body in resorption of the abscess.
There are two homeopathic remedies that work to rebalance the body in relation to abscess formation, Silica and Hepar sulphuris. In cases of septic abscesses, bentonite clay packs (bentonite clay and a small amount of Hydrastis powder) can be used to draw the infection from the area.