What Are the Common Causes of Black Pus?

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  • Written By: N. Swensson
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 07 August 2014
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Substances in the body that look like black pus can be caused by a variety of things, ranging from very minor to serious problems requiring medical attention. A type of acne called a blackhead occurs under the surface of the skin and looks like a small black dot; the color comes from bacteria and dirt that are trapped in the clogged pore. Some body infections can also produce pus that looks black due to the presence of dried blood in the wound. Another possible cause of black looking pus is a serious skin infection that can cause the skin and tissue to break down, which is a serious issue requiring medical attention. In any case, anyone who is concerned about the presence of black pus should consult with a medical professional for evaluation.

Blackheads look like small black dots on the surface of the skin, appearing most often in oily areas like the nose and chin. When squeezed, they produce hard black pus that is caused by an infection in the pore mixed with dirt and bacteria. Although blackheads are not medically concerning, people who are bothered by them can often minimize their appearance by using exfoliating treatments on the skin. Dermatologists can also remove the pus and treat the skin to help prevent new blackheads from forming.

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Pus in an abscess or other type of skin infection is created by the immune system’s response to the invading bacteria. When black pus appears in an abscess, which is an infection underneath the surface of the skin, it can be caused by blood mixing with the pus. Abscesses can be caused by a number of things, including a large pimple or boil or an infection in the teeth or gums or in the tonsils or throat. In most cases, it is better to see a doctor to treat the abscess instead of trying to remove it at home. Often, home treatment can damage the surrounding skin or spread the infection to other parts of the body.

One of the most serious causes of black pus is a skin infection caused by a form of streptococcus bacteria. The infection spreads quickly and causes the surrounding skin and underlying tissue to break down and die, at which point it turns black. The dark colored tissue is sometimes accompanied by a drainage that is described as black pus and is often accompanied by a foul smell. People who have this type of wound should see a doctor as soon as possible because it can cause permanent damage and cannot be treated at home.

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SarahGen
Post 3

@fBoyle-- I know what you mean. I experienced that after my partial hysterectomy. There was discharge or pus that looked dark brown. I thought that it was an infection, but it turned out to be cervical mucus and old blood. I'm glad I checked with my doctor though, because it could have been an infection as well.

fBoyle
Post 2

Most pus is not black, it just appears that way. As the article said, if pus or a wound truly is black, that's a reason for worry because it means that there is necrosis, or tissue death. This is very, very serious.

Usually pus looks brown or black because of old blood. Blood turns from a red color to dark brown as it waits. So if blood is exiting the body after waiting for a few days, it can look brown or black. That's not necessarily a sign for worry, but it does show that there was bleeding somewhere. For most wounds that bled, this is normal though.

SteamLouis
Post 1

I've never thought of blackheads as pus before. Blackheads are more like oil and dirt plugs that settle in pores. I think pus is more fluid and contains more than oil and dirt. Pus also contains bacteria and white blood cells that fight bacteria. I don't think either of those exist in a blackhead.

A blackhead could develop into a pimple though which eventually fills with pus.

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