An abscess in the neck is also called a boil. The abscess is caused by an inflammation, mostly caused by bacteria. In the neck, the pathogens travel along the hair shaft to the hair follicle and cause an inflammation of the surrounding tissue.
The infection leads to tissue melting and pus accumulation, which, together with the bacteria, accumulate within a capsule, forming an abscess. An abscess in the neck can be the size of an ordinary pus pimple and relatively harmless. However, if the inflammation spreads, the abscess can become as big as a golf ball and cause severe discomfort.
Symptoms of an abscess in the neck
The leading symptom of an abscess is the nodule, which is several centimetres in size and lies either superficially or deeply in the tissue. Typically, the yellow pus accumulation is visible in the middle of the node. The skin around the abscess is very swollen, reddened and warm due to the inflammation.
An abscess in the neck can cause severe throbbing pain and due to the strong swelling of the tissue the whole affected area is very sensitive to pressure. With larger abscesses a general feeling of illness and exhaustion is added to the symptoms. If the inflammation spreads into the surrounding tissue or if several boils merge into a so-called carbuncle, the affected persons react with fever and strongly swollen lymph nodes.
In such a case, a doctor must be consulted immediately so that the inflammation does not spread in the body and lead to serious complications. If the pathogens from the abscess enter the bloodstream, this leads to blood poisoning, a serious illness that can lead to organ failure and death within a very short time. An abscess in the neck can be very unpleasant and cause great pain.
The infection makes the skin at the affected area very sensitive to pressure and the severe swelling causes pain. The intensity of the pain depends on the location and size of the abscess. After surgical opening of the abscess, the accumulated secretion drains off, the pressure on the surrounding tissue is reduced and the pain disappears relatively quickly.
Therapy of an abscess
A boil in the neck must never be pushed around arbitrarily, as the bacteria are then squeezed even deeper into the tissue and enter the bloodstream. The bacteria in the blood cause serious complications such as blood poisoning or brain abscesses, which can be fatal. For these reasons, an abscess should only be treated by a doctor who cuts open the boil and allows the pus to drain away.
Rinse the wound thoroughly with an antiseptic solution. In the case of small abscesses, the treatment is thus complete and the cut heals quickly. In the case of larger and deeper abscesses, additional drug therapy must be administered.
The doctor can take a smear from the purulent secretion, thus determining the exact bacterial pathogen and prescribing a suitable antibiotic. Normally, however, the pathogen detection is not waited for and the patient is prescribed a broad-spectrum antibiotic after the opening, which is directed against the common strains of bacteria. The medication must be taken for several days to prevent the bacteria from spreading again and forming an abscess in the same place.