Phlegmon vs Abscess

What is the big difference between phlegmon and abscess? Phlegmon is an area of inflammation in the tissues while an abscess is a little bag of pus that’s more contained. The way they’re treated is a different too.  This article will discuss a phlegmon versus abscess.

Phlegmon: What is it?

Phlegmon is a term used to describe a localized inflammation or infection within the body. It typically results from the spread of bacteria in the soft tissues, such as skin, muscles, or organs. Unlike an abscess, a phlegmon doesn’t form a well-defined pocket filled with pus. Instead, it leads to swelling and inflammation in the affected area.

Causes of Phlegmon

Phlegmon can be caused by various factors, including:

  1. Bacterial Infections: Most commonly, phlegmon results from a bacterial infection, often due to the penetration of bacteria through a wound or injury.
  2. Inflammation: In some cases, an underlying inflammatory condition can trigger the development of phlegmon.
  3. Complications: Phlegmon may arise as a complication of surgical procedures or as a response to foreign objects in the body.

Symptoms of Phlegmon

Common symptoms of phlegmon include:

  • Redness and warmth in the affected area.
  • Swelling and tenderness.
  • Pain and discomfort.
  • Fever and chills if the infection is severe.

Diagnosing and Treating Phlegmon

Diagnosing phlegmon typically involves a physical examination and imaging tests, like ultrasound or MRI, to assess the extent of the infection. Treatment may involve antibiotics to fight the infection and, in some cases, surgical drainage to remove infected tissue.

Abscess: What is it?

Abscess is a localized collection of pus that forms within a cavity. This pus is composed of white blood cells, tissue debris, and bacteria. Unlike phlegmon, abscesses are well-defined pockets that contain this infectious material.

Causes of Abscess

Abscesses are usually caused by:

  1. Bacterial Infections: Similar to phlegmon, bacterial infections are the primary cause of abscesses.
  2. Obstructions: An obstruction, such as a blocked hair follicle or foreign object, can trap bacteria and lead to abscess formation.

Symptoms of Abscess

The typical symptoms of an abscess include:

  • Swelling, often with a visible lump or bump.
  • Redness and warmth around the abscess.
  • Pain or throbbing at the site.
  • Pus drainage when the abscess ruptures.

Diagnosing and Treating Abscess

Diagnosing an abscess is relatively straightforward because of its distinct appearance. Doctors may drain the abscess by making an incision and removing the pus. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to treat the underlying infection.

Key Differences

Now that we have explored phlegmon and abscess individually, let’s highlight some key differences between these conditions:

  1. Appearance: Phlegmon results in swelling and inflammation, while an abscess presents as a well-defined, pus-filled pocket.
  2. Treatment: Phlegmon is often treated with antibiotics and may require surgical drainage in severe cases. Abscesses are primarily treated by draining the pus and using antibiotics.
  3. Imaging: Imaging is helpful to assess both phlegmon and abscess.
  4. Symptoms: The symptoms of phlegmon and abscess are similar, but the visual and structural differences set them apart.


While phlegmon and abscess may share some symptoms, their underlying causes, appearance, and treatment methods distinguish them. If you suspect you have either condition, it is essential to seek medical attention promptly. Proper diagnosis and treatment are crucial for a full recovery and to prevent potential complications.

Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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