A hard abscess is an infection located underneath the skin. It typically starts as a reddened and raised lump and progresses into what is referred to as a carbuncle or a boil. White blood cells rush to the infected site to fight off the bacterial infection. Over time, an accumulation of used white blood cells turns into pus. This hardens the skin area and a hard abscess begins to form.
When a hard abscess develops, it is usually caused by a staphylococcus bacterial contamination. The most common reason for this occurrence is a wound or other type of break in the skin. Bacteria can enter through the break and a boil can start to form. Usually after some time, the abscess may pop, releasing the pus so the healing process can begin. If the abscess and pus do not properly drain, the bacterial infection might enter the blood stream, making this medical condition life threatening.
Reddened and inflamed skin are signs of a hard abscess. After the pus has accumulated at the site, local dead tissue cells are mixed into it. This produces a toxic substance and the body acts to put up a barrier around the infected area. The abscess is actually an attempt by the body to prevent the spreading of the infection. An outer skin layer or protective shell also helps to prevent further cell or tissue damage.
These boils or carbuncles can happen to anyone regardless of age or health history. They can also appear anywhere on the body but they are commonly seen on the buttocks, arms, or legs. Occasionally, similar pustules or hard abscesses can be found on the lungs, tonsils, or kidneys. These types of boils are very dangerous and they commonly infect nearby tissues and organs. Excessive internal bleeding and gangrene can also accompany these boils.
Medical treatment starts with placing hot compresses directly on the infected site. This draws the toxic mixture of dead tissues, cells, and pus to the top layer of the skin. At this point, a health care professional may choose to lance the wound. This releases the pus and also relieves the pressure under the skin. Antibiotics are usually given after the drainage procedure.
Typically, an abscess only happens once but people who have compromised immune systems or certain medical conditions can have them more frequently. For example, inflammatory bowel syndrome can produce these carbuncles more than once, from hardened bowel movements. A doctor should check out any abscess that does not go away.