An abscess is a collection of pus and debris. In most causes, abscesses are red, raised and painful. Abscesses can occur in almost any part of the body. Most common sites include the armpits, areas around the anus and vagina, the base of the spine, around a tooth, and in the groin. Abscesses are caused by the obstruction of oil glands or sweat glands, inflammation of hair follicles, or minor breaks and punctures of the skin. When germs make their way under the skin or into glands, an inflammatory response results. Inflammation around a hair follice that results in an abscess is called a boil.