An abscess is any localized collection of pus in the body. An abscess forms as a result of invasion by bacteria or other organisms. with consequent breakdown of tissue. Abscesses are often described in terms of their locations. Thus an appendiceal abscess is one occurring within the abdominal cavity in close relation to the appendix, and generally subsequent to a ruptured appendix, i.e., appendicitis.
A lung abscess frequently follows an inflammation in the lung caused by certain organisms such as the staphylococcus, or as a result of violent mixed infections that may occur if vomited material is aspirated into the lungs.
Boils and carbuncles are essentially abscesses within the skin. Since they normally come to a “head,” thereby instituting drainage (which is desirable in healing), they pose less of a threat than similar kinds of inflammations in the organs.
Breast abscess, a fairly common form of abscess, occurs in the tissue of the breast; this is seen most often in post-partum women and in nursing mothers. Most of these abscesses are due to an invasion of the breast tissue by skin organisms which either enter via some minute crack in the nipple or work their way down through the breast duct system.
A breast abscess manifests itself as a warm tender swelling, sometimes accompanied by chills or fever. It may respond to local compresses and antibiotics by mouth. If it does not, the swelling will continue and may become fluctuant (soft), at which point an incision to produce drainage may be necessary. Once drainage is established, the abscess empties itself and healing generally occurs without incident.
A pelvic abscess is one which forms in the pelvic cavity and is often secondary to inflammations of a pelvic organ. Inflamations of the tube and ovary may lead to this, but so also may inflammations of the large intestine. Suppuration of the appendix may also drain off into the pelvic cavity and produce an abscess there.