A boil or furuncle may appear as a painful red or pink bump that is tender. It grows larger quickly and fills up with pus within a few days. Eventually, it ruptures and oozes the pus. Some common places where a boil may appear are the face, neck, breast, shoulders, armpits, thighs or buttocks.
Carbuncles form as a cluster of red bumps that are connected underneath the skin. They are a more severe form of infection that affects the deeper layer of the skin. The shoulders, neck, and thighs are commonly affected by carbuncles. Unlike a single boil, a group of boils may cause fever or chills and leave scarring once healed.
Boils go way on their own or can be treated at home with self-care. In some cases, you may need to seek medical attention.
Bacterial Infection: Boils develop under the skin and show up on the surface of the skin when the hair follicles become infected by a type of bacteria known as Staphylococcus aureus. The bacteria can be found on the skin and inside the nostrils. Once it gets into the hair follicles or oil glands, for example through a cut, scrape, or break in the skin, it can cause boils and carbuncles.
Anyone, including healthy people, can break out in boils. Stress, wearing tight clothing that creates friction with the skin, and clothing that traps sweat are ways in which boils can easily develop. Certain people are at a greater risk of developing boils. They include those who have:
Diabetes: This condition often compromised the immune system making it difficult for the patient to fight off opportunistic infections, such as those caused by bacteria.
Weakened Immune System: Any medical condition that compromises or weakens the immune can place you at risk for infection with the boil-causing bacteria. Conditions include diabetes, HIV/AIDS or cancer.
Poor Hygiene: Sweat and oil on the skin trap bacteria. Not bathing or cleaning the skin regularly can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria on the skin. Overgrowth makes it far easier for bacteria to seep into the body through the hair follicles or a skin injury.
Poor Nutrition: Eating unhealthy foods, such as those high in artificial sugars or glycemic carbs, fats or oils can cause an eruption of boils on the skin. These foods stimulate oil production leading to inflammation of the hair follicles. A deficiency in vitamins A and E is also linked to the formation of boils.
Other Skin Conditions: Acne, psoriasis, and eczema are skin conditions that cause itchiness or dryness and increase the chance of getting boils and carbuncles.
Contact with Infected Persons: Living in the same household or being in close contact with someone infected with the Staph bacteria places you at risk of getting boils.
Exposure to Skin Irritants: Being exposed to harsh chemicals can irritate your skin and make it easier for the bacteria to enter into the hair follicles and bloodstream. Similarly, people with cuts and scratches on the skin are at a greater risk for bacterial infection that results in boils and carbuncles.
Boils may appear on various parts on the body but especially on areas that trap sweat or are prone to friction. These include the armpit, neck, breast, buttocks, and upper thighs. The symptoms of boils are easy to spot. At the same time, some of the symptoms may be similar to other skin conditions. An accurate diagnosis of boils can be made by your doctor. You may have boils if you notice the following signs and symptoms:
A boil usually ruptures, drains, and heals within two weeks. Applying home remedy treatments should help to speed up the process as well. Avoid squeezing, pricking, cutting or damaging the boil using a pointy or sharp object. This can cause the bacteria to spread and affect other areas of the skin. You may also be left with a scar.
Warm Compress: Wait until the pus has filled out and the boil is tender. Soak the boil in warm water by applying a clean, warm, moist cloth to the boil for about 10 minutes. Do this several times throughout the day. The heat from the compress works to relieve pain, expand the pores of the skin, and eventually pops the boil. Once the pus drains, wash the affected area with warm water and antibacterial soap about three times a day. This helps prevent spreading the bacteria to other areas of the body and to other people. Continue to apply a warm compress until the boil heals.
Although their effectiveness may not have been scientifically proven, other home remedies people use are as follows:
You should wash your hands thoroughly after touching and treating the affected area to avoid spreading the bacteria to other parts of your body or to other people.
If the boil remains for longer than two weeks and you have the following symptoms, this could mean there is a serious infection that requires medical attention. You should seek medical care right away if you also have a health condition that already weakened the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS or cancer.
Your doctor will make a diagnosis by doing a physical examination and considering your medical history. You may be treated in the following ways:
Pricking and Draining: Your doctor or healthcare professional will prick the boil using a sterilized needle and allow it to drain before cleaning it with an antiseptic solution. A small incision is done on large boils to release the pus. Gauze may be placed inside the wound of large boils to absorb pus and blood. You may need to use an antibiotic cream or gel to help heal the wound and prevent scarring.
Medication: Antibiotics may be prescribed if you have a severe or recurrent infection. An oral antibiotic is used to get rid of the bacteria from inside the body. A topical antibiotic can be applied to the wound to assist with healing and reduce scarring. Patients with vitamin A and E deficiencies may be advised to take vitamin supplements.
If you have recurrent outbreaks of boils, your doctor may test you to determine whether they are due to an underlying medical condition. The correct antibiotic mediation can be prescribed after a test is done to determine the strain of bacteria causing the infection.
Though it rarely occurs, bacteria from furuncles or carbuncles may enter the bloodstream and invade other parts of the body. The infection can cause sepsis (blood poisoning) osteomyelitis (infection of the bone) or endocarditis (infection of the inner lining of the heart).
Boils develop due to an infection with the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. Developing boils is not a life-threatening condition, even though severe infection can lead to spreading of the bacteria to the blood, heart, and bone. Boils can be easily treated at home, except in cases where the infection is too severe that it causes complications. Remember that the staphylococcus bacteria can easily spread on contact and from sharing personal items. This is why it is extremely necessary to avoid pricking, squeezing, or popping the boil in a manner that can cause it to spread. Treatment with antibiotics and maintaining good hygiene and nutrition should prevent boils from recurring.