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Boil or furuncle is a skin disease caused by the inflammation of hair follicles, thus resulting in thelocalized accumulation of pus and dead tissues. A boil is a red, swollen, painful bump under the skin similar to an overgrown pimple. Boils are often caused by infected hair follicles. Individual boils can cluster together and form an interconnected network of boils called carbuncles. In severe cases, boils may develop to form abscesses.
The abscess can become larger than a ping-pong ball and may be extremely painful. They occur most often in areas where there is hair and chafing. The face, neck, armpits, breast, groin and buttocks are common sites.
Last Updated -21st December 2005
- The symptoms of boils are red, pus-filled lumps that are tender, warm, and/or painful. A yellow or white point at the center of the lump can be seen when the boil is ready to drain or discharge pus. In a severe infection, multiple boils may develop and the patient may experience fever and swollen lymph nodes.
- In some people, itching may develop before the lumps begin to develop. Boils are most often found on the back, underarms, shoulders, face and buttocks.
- Boils are generally caused by an infection of the hair follicles by Staphylococcus aureus or staph, a strain of bacteria that normally live on the skin surface. It is thought that a tiny cut of the skin allows this bacteria to enter the follicles and cause an infection. This can happen during bathing while using a razor.
- People with immune system disorders, diabetes, poor hygiene and malnutrition are particularly susceptible to getting boils. However they may also occur in healthy, hygienic individuals.
- Hidradenitis suppurativa causes frequent boils.
- Most boils run their course within 4 to 10 days. For most people, self-care by applying a warm compress or soaking the boil in warm water can help alleviate the pain and hasten draining of the pus (colloquially called "bringing the boil to a head"). Once the boil drains, the area should be washed with antibacterial soap and bandaged well.
- For serious cases, prescription oral and topical antibiotics may be required.
- Wash boil-prone areas with soapy water. An antifacterial soap may help. dry thoroughly.
- Avoid tight clothing.
- Do not squeeze a boil as it can push the infection deeper into the skin.
- Do not scratch a boil as scratching can spread the bacteria to other parts of the body.
- Do not drain or lance a boil.
- Wash yourself well with an antibacterial soap to keep the infection from spreading.
- Apply hot, wet washcloths to the boil for 20 to 30 minutes, 3 to 4 times per day.
- Apply a hot water bottle or a waterproof heating pad over a damp towel to the boil.
- Continue using warm compresses for 3 days after the boil opens.
- Apply a bandage to a boil that is draining to keep the drainage from spreading - change bandage daily.
When to Call a Physician
- If the boil is on your face.
- If the boil is near your spine.
- If the boil is in the anal area.
- If signs of worsening infection develop.
- If any other lumps, particularly painful ones, develop near the infected area.
- If the pain limits your normal activities.
- If you have diabetes.
- If the boil is as large as a ping-pong ball.
- If the boil has not improved after 5 days of home treatment.
- If many boils develop over several months.
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