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Saturday, January 15, 2011

What Is a Neck Abscess?

What Is a Neck Abscess?
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A neck abscess is a collection of pus in the neck. Typically, the
abscess is caused by an infection. As the pus continues to
accumulate, the abscess will grow larger and form a mass. This can
create other significant problems. Uncommonly large neck abscesses
can push on other structures in the neck, such as the throat and
windpipe, and lead to problems swallowing and breathing.
There are many possible causes of a neck abscess. Generally, an
infection, commonly in the head or neck can lead to an abscess. An
ear infection, the common cold and sinus infections are some common
contributors to this condition. Another possible cause is
tonsillitis, or inflammation of the tonsils. If any of these
infections extends into the tissues within the neck or throat, an
abscess may form.
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A common type of abscess in the neck is a superficial neck abscess.
This type of abscess is typically located right under the skin. It
may be caused by an infection in the throat, swollen lymph nodes or
a cold. The most common symptom is an irritated throat, which may
appear sore, red and swollen. Other symptoms can include a fever,
chills, stiffness and pain in the neck and overall feeling unwell.
Infections which occur deep under the skin in the neck may form a
deep neck abscess. This type of abscess is commonly located near
muscles and blood vessels deep into the neck. All of the
symptoms of
a superficial abscess may be present with a deep neck abscess with
the addition of more severe neck pain, difficulty swallowing and
neck swelling. If the abscess is particularly large, it could press
on the airway and cause breathing problems. Pressure from a large
abscess in the neck can also damage nerves in the neck, which may
affect movement of the vocal cords.
Antibiotics are typically the first line of defense against a neck
abscess. If antibiotics fail to cure the infection, an abscess
drainage will be necessary. The drainage procedure will generally
mean having a surgical incision made to drain the pus from
the neck.
From this drainage, the doctor will be able to identify
the specific
cause of the infection by examining the pus under a microscope.
After the exact cause is found, a more specific type of antibiotic
will be prescribed as a follow-up treatment.
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An individual with a neck abscess should have it evaluated by a
health care professional as soon as it is discovered.
Typically, the
doctor will order blood tests and do a throat culture to gain
information on the infection present. The examination may also
include more advanced diagnostic tests such as a computed
tomography
(CT) scan. This will enable a more detailed look at the abscess and
will be able to differentiate an abscess from a cyst or tumor. In
some incidences, an individual may be referred to an
otolaryngologists or ear, nose and throat doctor to treat a very
large or complex neck abscess.
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Written by Nat Robinson
Edited by Heather Bailey
Last Modified: 09 September 2010


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