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Calf Abscess: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Home Remedies, Recovery, Prognosis

What is Calf Abscess?

Calf abscess is a medical condition where a fragile lump of mass is developed on the human calf. Generally it is surrounded by a colored area ranging from pink to deep red. The calf abscess is can be felt easily by touching. The abscess center is full of debris and pus.

It is not always possible to treat the calf abscess by antibiotics alone. In general calf abscess should be drained by opening it in order for the condition to improve. In fact, sometimes draining happens on its own, but normally a big calf abscess must be opened as a procedure by a doctor referred to as I & D or incision and drainage.

What is Calf Abscess?

What Causes an Abscess?

Foreign organisms namely bacteria enters the body and immediately blood cells are sent by the immune system to fight the infection. This result in the inflammation as swelling on the infection site, thus all the nearby tissue dies, creating a hole that gets filled with pus forming an abscess.

Calf Abscess Vs. Calf Cyst

A calf abscess is different from a calf cyst. A calf abscess is an infection while a cyst developed on the calf is not an infection. A cyst on calf can become an infection. Both calf abscess and calf cyst looks alike and both of them are pus and other liquid filled lumps.

What Can I Do to Prevent Calf Abscess from Spreading or Getting Worse?

Avoid squeezing the calf abscess pus from the wound by yourself, because it may get easily spread to other areas of your skin. Even if you wipe the pus using tissues from your abscess, without fail dispose them straight away preventing germs from spreading. Remember to wash your hands after disposing the tissues.

Clean immediately the wounds and visit your general physician in case you believe there is or may be something rapt in your skin.

Causes of Calf Abscess

Calf abscess in humans is caused due to an infection which is caused by staphylococcal bacteria. The cause of calf abscess is owing to sweat glands or sebaceous oil glands obstruction. It happens due to skin punctures and breaks and the germs get into the calf skin causing an inflammatory response such that the defence of your body kills the germs.

This results in the calf abscess liquefying and it contains bacteria, dead cells, and other debris. This area starts to grow, thereby developing tension under the skin developing inflammation in the surrounding tissues. Thus, inflammation and pressure causes the pain.

People having weakened immune systems experience more often calf abscess. People experience severe calf abscess risk if they have any of the following and this happens because the body is unable to ward off infections owing to decreased ability. The chances of calf abscess is more when one has:

There are other risk factors causing calf abscess and they include exposure to skin infected persons, dirty environments, poor hygiene, and poor circulation of blood.

Signs and Symptoms of Calf Abscess

Generally, calf abscess becomes a compressible and painful mass that is warm and red to touch; besides is tender.

  • With the progress of calf abscess, it points out and comes to a head point that allows you to see the material inside and with this you can open the rupture immediately. This is the major sign of calf abscess.
  • If it is ignored, these calf abscess become worse. The infection spreads under the skin to the tissues and even into the bloodstream.
  • In case the infection reaches the deeper tissue, fever and an ill feel is felt.

You may want to call your health care provider on noticing signs of skin infection such as:

  • Fever
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Any kind of drainage.

Talk to the health care provider in case you experience new symptoms during or after the calf abscess treatment.

Risk Factors for Calf Abscess

The above mentioned calf abscess causes are some of the main reasons increasing the development of abscess and this also includes risk factors such as:

  • Having diabetes is a major risk factor for calf abscess.
  • Being a staphylococcal bacteria carrier ie., if the bacteria has spread within your blood stream, then the risk factor for developing calf abscess is more.
  • Having weakened immune system. This may happen due to medical conditions such as chemotherapy treatment or HIV/AIDS.
  • Having an inflammatory condition underlying, such as hidradenitis suppurativa can increase the risk of developing calf abscess.

However, development of calf abscess is also seen in people who are generally healthy.

Tests to Diagnose Calf Abscess

The doctor considers medical history and may ask these below details:

  • The time period the calf abscess is present?
  • If you are prone to allergies?
  • If you had any injury earlier in the calf area?
  • If you had fever recently?
  • The medicines you may be currently taking?

The doctor examines the calf abscess; the surrounding areas and may perform other examinations such as blood test if necessary.

Treatment for Calf Abscess

The doctor opens and drains the calf abscess and it is done in the following manner:

  • The area enveloping calf abscess is numbed with medicines.
  • It is not very simple to numb the area completely, but with the help of local anaesthesia the procedure is made almost painless.
  • The patient is given sedative in case the calf abscess is really large.
  • Sterile towels are placed around and an antiseptic solution is put on the area covering it.
  • With this, doctor cut opens the abscess and drains off totally the collected debris and pus.

Once the sore draining is been done, the doctor inserts a little packing into the cavity to restrict bleeding and allows it to stay open for a day or two.

  • A bandage is placed on the packing and instructions are given to the patient regarding home care to be taken
  • Generally, people feel better as soon as the calf abscess is drained completely.
  • If you are experiencing any pain, the doctor prescribes pain pills to use at home over the next 1 to 2 days.

Treatment Follow-Up for Calf Abscess

Carefully follow the instructions that your doctor gives you.

  • You may be asked by the doctor to remove the packing by yourself as per the instructions and it may include flushing or soaking.
  • Do not miss any follow-up appointments.
  • In case you have fever, swelling, redness, or increased pain report immediately to your doctor.

Complications of Calf Abscess

People experiencing calf abscess face complications such as:

  • Infection spreading in the same area.
  • Tissue death (gangrene) is a complication of calf abscess.
  • Infection spread into the blood and throughout the body is another complication of calf abscess.

Home Remedies for Calf Abscess

A simple home remedy for treating small calf abscess is to make use of warm compressions.

  • In case the calf abscess is small; apply warm compresses for about 30 minutes daily 4 times daily to the calf abscess.
  • Do not attempt draining the calf abscess by pressing or squeezing it. This pushes the material infected into deeper tissues.
  • Avoid sticking a needle or for that matter any sharp instrument into the calf abscess centre as you may end up injuring an underlying blood vessel or may spread the infection.

Recovery Period/Healing Time for Calf Abscess

The recovery period/healing time depends on the treatment mode and your doctor will keep you informed about the approximate recovery time. Consult your doctor to know the recovery time and know the steps to be taken, if there is recurrence.

Prevention of Calf Abscess

Maintaining a personal hygiene regularly is recommended to prevent calf abscess by washing your skin using soap and water.

Most calf abscesses are caused due to bacteria entering a sweat gland, a minor wound, or a blocked oil gland. Ascertain your skin is healthy, clean and free of bacteria so that it reduces the calf abscesses risk in developing. The risk of bacteria may be reduced spreading by:

  • Regularly wash your calf region.
  • Usage of separate towels.
  • Wait for your calf abscess getting completely treated and healed prior to using any swimming pools, saunas or gym equipment.

The risk of calf abscesses may be prevented to a great extent by:

  • Losing weight, in case of obese or overweight person.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Have a balanced and healthy diet.

Prognosis/Outlook for Calf Abscess

The calf abscess heals, once it is properly treated and the prognosis is usually excellent. Many people need no antibiotics. The pain immediately improves and subsides with each day.

Understand the instructions on wound care as this may include repacking of wound, soaking, bandaging or washing, for nearly 7 to 10 days. This depends on the calf abscess severity and size.

After the initial 2 days, abscessing drainage should be minimal from the calf abscess. All sores mostly take 10-14 days healing period.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 25, 2023

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