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Should I Pop an Abscess?

Medical treatment is usually required for abscesses.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 08 April 2014
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The medical community does not encourage patients to lance or drain abscesses themselves, and it is not advisable to try to pop an abscess. Abscesses usually require medical treatment and if a deposit of fluid, pus, and other materials is large enough to cause discomfort and make a patient want to pop it, it probably needs to be seen by a medical professional. Popping an abscess can potentially cause some serious medical complications, and costly treatment may be required to address these problems.

Abscesses are pockets of infectious and inflamed material. They can be located anywhere in or on the body, including under the skin and in the organs. Abscesses can feel hard or squishy, depending on the contents, and they are filled with dead cells, pus, and other materials. If someone decides to try to release the built up material, one potential risk is that the contents will be forced backwards, further into the body, causing the infection to spread and increasing the size of the abscess.

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If someone manages to puncture an abscess and get it draining to the outside, there is still a risk that the abscess will reform. When one is lanced by a healthcare professional, it is typically flushed to remove infectious material, something patients usually cannot do at home, and a drain is implanted to allow fluids to drain, instead of building up, ensuring that the abscess does not reform. Simply popping an abscess, squeezing out as much material as possible, and leaving it will often result in it reforming.

In the case of an abscess located deep in the tissue or inside the body, a patient cannot pop an abscess safely, nor can another member of the household. Sterile tools need to be used to access the area and a healthcare professional needs to work carefully to avoid rupturing the abscess in the wrong way. While abscesses do sometimes spontaneously rupture at home before patients have a chance to see a medical professional, spontaneous ruptures can be accompanied by tissue damage and the spread of infection, just like a deliberate rupture at home. Sometimes, even in clinical settings, medical professionals can cause complications in the process of trying to pop an abscess, and they have specialized training in this area, illustrating how dangerous it can be for patients.

Going to a healthcare professional for treatment of an abscess will ensure that an appropriate treatment is provided initially, minimizing the risk of developing complications. In addition, the individual can prescribe medications like prophylactic antibiotics to prevent infection, and can monitor healing closely on follow up visits to identify signs of complications that require additional treatment before those complications turn unpleasant.

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