See a GP if you think you may have an abscess. There are several tests used to diagnose an abscess, depending on where it's located.
If you have a skin abscess, a GP will first examine the affected area and may ask you:
- how long you've had the abscess
- whether you've injured that area
- whether you have any other symptoms
A sample of pus may be taken from your abscess and sent for testing. This allows the specific bacteria causing the abscess to be identified, which can help determine the best way of treating it.
If you've had more than one skin abscess, you may be asked to give a urine sample. This will be tested for glucose, which is a sign of diabetes. People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing skin abscesses.
If you have recurring boils and abscesses, your GP may ask the laboratory to test the bacteria further to see if it's producing Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) toxin. Additional treatments may be recommended, such as a body wash or an antibiotic cream, to stop these bacteria living on the body.
Abscesses that develop inside your body are more difficult to diagnose than skin abscesses because they cannot be seen.
A GP will ask you about your symptoms and any other health conditions you may have. If necessary, they'll refer you to a specialist in hospital.
Page last reviewed: 04 November 2019
Next review due: 04 November 2022