Axillary Abscess: Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Overview

These bumps are a way for the body to try to heal itself from infection.

An abscess (also known as a boil) is caused by an infection of a hair follicle or sebaceous gland.

The infection, which usually affects Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, collects in the follicle in the form of pus and dead skin. The area will turn red and swell, slowly growing as more pus collects within the lesion.

While unsightly and uncomfortable, most boils are not life threatening and can open and drain on their own within two weeks. See your doctor if the abscess under your arm proliferates or does not improve within two weeks.

Your boil may have to be forced surgically (cut open by cutting a small incision).

Symptoms of an axillary abscess

A boil forms when a bacterial infection occurs within a hair follicle, most commonly a staph infection. The disease affects the hair follicle and the tissue around it.

The bacterial infection causes a hollow space around the follicle that fills with pus. If the disease area increases around the hair follicle, the abscess will grow.


Symptoms of a boil include:

  • Red and pink bump.
  • Pain in or around the lump.
  • Yellow pus is showing through the skin.
  • Itch.
  • Ardor.

Several interconnected boils are called carbuncles. A carbuncle is a large area of ​​infection under the skin.

Infections result in a group of boils that appear as an enormous lump on the skin’s surface.

What Causes an Axillary Abscess?

Boils under the arm occur when a hair follicle becomes infected. This can occur due to:

Excessive sweating

If you sweat more than usual due to the weather or physical activity, but you don’t clean yourself properly, you may be more susceptible to infections like boils.

Shaved off

Your armpit is a place where sweat and dead skin can accumulate. If you shave your armpits frequently, you may have a higher chance of getting a bacterial infection in your armpit.

When you shave, you may be accidentally creating openings in the skin under your arms that can allow easier access for bacteria.

Poor hygiene

If you don’t wash under your arms regularly, dead skin can build up, contributing to the development of boils or pimples.

Weak immune system

If you have a weak immune system, your body may be less able to fight a bacterial infection. Boils are also more common if you have diabetes mellitus, cancer, eczema, or allergies.

Treatment of axillary abscesses

Do not touch, pop, or squeeze the abscess. Among other negative results, draining the spot can cause the infection to spread.

Also, squeezing the abscess can allow other bacteria to enter the injury on your hands or fingers.

To help your abscess heal:

  • Use antibacterial soap to clean the area.
  • Apply warm, wet compresses to the area several times a day.
  • Don’t try to pop the abscess.

If your abscess does not go away after two weeks, you should receive treatment from a medical provider. Your doctor may cut off the boil to drain the pus.

Antibiotics may also be prescribed to cure the underlying infection.

Is it an abscess or a pimple?

You may be wondering if the bump on the skin under your arm is an abscess or a pimple. An infection of a sebaceous gland characterizes a spot.

This gland is closer to the top layer of the skin (epidermis) than a hair follicle. If a pimple does arise, it is likely smaller than an abscess.

An abscess is an infection of the hair follicle found more profound in the second layer of the skin (dermis), closer to the fatty tissue under the skin. The disease then pushes into the top layer of the skin, creating an enormous lump.


While painful, underarm boils are not usually a cause for concern. The abscess will probably get better or heal in two weeks.

If the abscess gets more considerable, if it stays in for more than two weeks, or if you have a fever or severe pain, talk to your doctor. You may need an antibiotic prescription, or your doctor may open and drain your abscess.