Know About Abscess

An abscess is collection of pus, which accumulates within a tissue and usually contains multinucleated white cells or neutrophils. Pus occurs as a result of an inflammatory response of body to an infective agent (commonly bacteria or parasite and viruses usually do not cause any pus formation) or due to a foreign body in a tissue (such as splinter, injection needles or bullet wounds). Pus formation is actually a defense mechanism of body, which helps in prevention of spread of infectious agents (bacteria and parasite) to other body parts.ID-100141688

How pus formation and abscess formation occurs?

The infectious agents (bacteria and parasite) or foreign body kills the cells in the local tissue area where it/they have lodged and cause release of cytokines (inflammatory mediator). Release of cytokines initiates an inflammatory response, which attracts large number of white blood cells (mainly multinucleated white cells or neutrophils). There is also increase in blood flow in the locality/area of inflammation. Many neutrophils die fighting infectious agents and form pus, which results in formation of abscess. Finally, there is formation of wall of the abscess. The wall or capsule of abscess is formed by surrounding local normal tissue in an attempt to prevent spread of infection to neighboring tissue or a distant tissue via blood stream. The wall may prevent infection from spreading, but it also prevents immune cells from attacking the bacteria present inside the abscess. Because of the wall of the abscess, there is no blood supply to the abscess and antibiotics are ineffective in treatment of abscess (the treatment of abscess in incision and drainage of pus).

What are the signs and symptoms of abscess?

Pus formation and as a result abscess formation is an inflammatory process and all the cardinal signs and symptoms of inflammation, namely redness, swelling, heat, pain and loss of function are present in a patient having abscess. However, the symptoms of abscess usually depend on the site of the abscess. The most common site of abscess formation is skin, although abscess can occur at any solid tissue. Other common sites of abscess formation include gums (periodontal abscess), lungs, brain, tonsils etc. As blood can not reach abscess, they rarely heal by themselves and need immediate medical or surgical intervention for prompt relief. Rarely, abscess may be located in vital areas (such as trachea), which compress vital organs and may be fatal, unless promptly treated adequately.

Image courtesy of [arztsamui] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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