What Is Pus Made Of?

What is pus made of? When pus is formed, various materials are contained in the fluid. Tissue debris combines with decaying white blood cells, microorganisms and oil to form the pus which appears on or in the body.

What is pus made of?

Most people notice pus when they develop acne, cysts, boils or abscesses. Various types of lesions, such as pimples or zits, contain pus. Generally, pus is white or cream in color, but in can also appear yellow or green in color.

Although pus can be made up of various different materials, there are common factors which are usually present. Dead or dying white blood cells are usually present in pus, although they’re not visible to the naked eye. Similarly, microorganisms, such as bacteria, are usually present.

In addition to this, pus can contain tissue debris, such as dry flakes of skin, and even dirt from the surface of the skin. As pimples are often formed close to the sebaceous glands, oil or sebum can also be present in pus.

What is pus made of and what are the symptoms?

When pus is created by the body, it may be present on the surface of the skin or contained within the body itself. Most people encounter pus when they have a pimple or zit. Whiteheads, for example, typically contain pus. Usually, pus is formed in response to inflammation and infection, so many of the symptoms of pus coincide with these conditions. Symptoms may, therefore, include:

  • Pain
  • Discomfort
  • Irritation of the skin
  • Unpleasant odor
  • Itching

If a small amount of pus is present, individuals may experience a small amount of pain and discomfort. Minor pimples, for example, can be painful for a day or two, before they diminish. Similarly, pus can cause skin irritation and itching. As pus is created in order to fight infection, itching may occur whilst this process takes place.

The severity of the patient’s symptoms often depend on the volume of pus produced, the location of the pus and the type of infection which is causing the pus to be formed. If a large cyst forms, for example, patients may experience a significant amount of pain. As cysts are typically closed, patients may feel a throbbing or dull pain until the cyst is able to release the pus or until it resolves on its own.

Whilst many people develop pimples or acne on their face, the shoulders, back and arms can also be affected. If pus is present in spots on the back or shoulders, this can be more painful than if the patient has spots on their face. Attempting to lie down or sit comfortably when pus is present in spots on the back or shoulders can be extremely uncomfortable, for example.

Although pimples are often caused by infections, they are typically fairly mild and will resolve on their own. If a patient develops a more aggressive infection, more pus may be produced and they may experience an increased amount of pain.

What is pus made of and what causes it?

Pus is formed in response to infection and inflammation. If the body thinks something is invading it, such as bacteria or an unknown substance, it will attempt to fight the infection and pus is produced in the process.

When the body first recognizes the signs of infection, white blood cells are produced by the individual’s bone marrow. These cells, also known as leukocytes, are used to attack the infection and prevent it from spreading to other areas of the body.

Neutrophils are a particular type of leukocyte that target bacteria and fungus. Once the body’s response system is activated, neutrophils are filtered by the patient’s blood and travel to the site of the infection. In order to fight the infection effectively, numerous neutrophils are released and are present in the affected area. When this happens, pus is formed.

As well as containing white blood cells, pus tends to be made up of additional materials. Whatever caused the infection is also likely to be present in the pus, for example. Due to this, bacteria and/or fungus are common components of pus. Similarly, debris from the skin and oil may also be present in pus, particularly if the site of the infection is close to the outer layer of the skin.

Although pus has common features, the actual content of the pus will depend on the individual affected and the type of infection they have. Pus which has been formed to combat a bacterial infection may contain a specific type of bacteria, for example, whilst pus which has been created in response to a fungal infection will contain the relevant type of fungus.

What is pus made of and how can it be treated?

As pus is created in response to an infection, it should be diminished once the infection has been resolved. In many cases, the body will be able to fight the infection without assistance and the pus will be removed by macrophages in the body. In some cases, however, it may be necessary for pus to be treated with medical intervention. This may include:

  • Being drained
  • Being removed
  • Antibiotic or antifungal medication

If a significant amount of pus has formed, a physician may drain it so that it’s removed from the body. This typically involves using a needle to remove the pus and does not generally require an incision or stitches. If pus has collected and is causing a significant amount of pain, draining it may be a viable form of treatment.

Alternatively, physicians may remove pus from the body by performing minor surgery. If a cyst is present, for example, doctors can make a small incision in order to remove it. Alternatively, larger forms of infection and the subsequent pus can be removed via traditional surgery.

If the body is unable to resolve the infection, antibiotic or anti-fungal medications may be prescribed. As these begin to take effect, the pus associated with the infection will also decrease.

Although medical intervention is sometimes necessary, many pimples, boils, abscesses and cysts can be treated at home with self-care measures.

What is pus made of and how can it be prevented?

It isn’t always possible to avoid infections and, due to this, it may not be possible to avoid the collation of pus either. However, if the body is exposed to less bacteria or fungi, the risk of infection is reduced. As pus is created in response to infection, individuals who contract fewer infections are less likely to have a build-up of pus in or on their body.

Last Reviewed:
June 24, 2018
Last Updated:
June 21, 2018