Dermatology
Boils
 

​Introduction:

Bacteria may cause a hair follicle (or more) to be inflamed. There are three types of such an inflammation:
  • Folliculitis: Folliculitis is a condition in which hair follicles become inflamed.
  • Boils: Deeper than folliculitis, a boil is a painful, pus-filled bump that forms under your skin, and develop red, painful bumps on the skin. Boils can occur anywhere on the skin, but appear mainly on hair-bearing areas where the body is most likely to sweat or experience friction, such as: the neck, face or thighs.
  • Carbuncles: A carbuncle is a cluster of boils that form a connected area of infection under the skin. Carbuncles cause a deeper and more severe infection. 
Other names of boils:
Pimples, pustules, furuncles.

Difference between a wart and a boil:
Warts are caused by a viral infection (See: Warts, whereas boils are caused by a bacterial infection.

Causes:
Boils develop when Staphylococcus aureus, a type of bacteria, enter into the skin as a result of an injury, or when the skin is broken.

Risk factors:
Although anyone can develop boils, the following factors can increase your risk:
  • ​Close contact with a person who has a staph infection;
  • Diabetes (since it affects the immune system);
  • Other skin conditions: make it easier for the bacteria to get into the skin—such conditions include acne and eczema; and
  • Compromised immunity.

Symptoms:
  • A painful, red bump that starts out small (the size of a pea);
  • Red, swollen skin around the bump;
  • An increase in the size of the bump over a few days as it fills with pus;
  • Development of a yellow-white tip that eventually ruptures and allows the pus to drain out.

When to see a doctor?
You usually can care for a single, small boil yourself. But see your doctor if you have more than one boil at a time or if a boil:
  • Occurs on your face or nose;
  • Gets bigger, worsens, or is extremely painful;
  • Causes a fever;
  • Hasn't healed in two weeks; or
  • Recurs.

Complications:
Bacteria from a boil or carbuncle can enter your bloodstream and travel to other parts of your body. Rarely, this can lead to infections deep within the body, such as bone, brain, etc.

Diagnosis:
It may not be easy for the patient to differentiate between boils and other types of bumps. Boils, however, are bigger in size, and more painful. The doctor will likely be able to diagnose a boil or carbuncle simply by looking at it. If a certain medication does not prove to be effective, or if boils recur after healing, the doctor may need to lab-test the pus to determine what type of medication would work best in your situation.

Treatment:
  • Simple boils: Most simple boils heal and disappear without medical intervention within 1-3 week.
  • Severe boils: The doctor may drain a large boil or carbuncle by making an incision in it, and covering it till it drains and heals. Antibiotics may be used to help heal severe or recurrent boils.

Treating small boils at home:
  • Apply warm compresses (but avoid excessive heat, especially with children) 3-4 times a day, 10-15 minutes each, till the boil naturally drains the pus, and heals;
  • You may use painkillers (e.g., ibuprofen) when there is need to;
  • Keep the boil area clean, and avoid touching or rubbing it;
  • If the boil opens, cover it with a sterile bandage to avoid spread of infection.

Prevention:
  • Keep cuts and abrasions clean and covered with sterile, dry bandages until they heal.
  • Avoid sharing personal items, such as: razors, towels, etc.
  • Keep your hands clean.

To avoid the spread of boils:
  • Never squeeze or lance a boil yourself;
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after treating a boil;
  • Launder clothing and towels that have touched the infected area, especially if you have recurrent infections.

FAQ
Are boils infectious?
Yes, since they are caused by a bacterial infection, which can be transmitted through contact with the boils of an infected person. Even more so, the infection of boils can be transmitted to the same person, from one area to another, if he fails to wash his hands thoroughly, and avoid touching the boil.

Myths & Realities:
Boils need to be popped to heal.
Reality: Certainly not; boils should be left. Squeezing or touching a boil may cause the affected area to be infected with other types of bacteria. If the boil opens, cover it with a sterile bandage to avoid spread of infection.



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