Boils (furuncle)

A boil, or furuncle, is a bacterial infection under the skin that causes a painful, pus-filled lump. It is usually caused by staphylococcal bacteria, that enters the body through tiny nicks or cuts in the skin and travels down the hair follicles, a sac under the skin where hair grows from. It commonly occurs on hair-bearing areas of the body like the back of the neck, face, armpits, and buttocks. A collection of boils in the same area join together to form a big collection of pus is called a "carbuncle."

What are the symptoms of a boil?

A boil is a painful, red lump with white or yellow center, under hair-bearing skin of neck, trunk, armpits, face, buttocks and extremities skin. It usually starts small but can grow quickly as the infection worsens. It also gets more painful as it gets bigger.

What is the treatment for a boil?

Boil needs to open and drain the pus inside it so it can heal. Sometimes, boils rupture and drain on their own. But most boils need in office procedure called incision and drainage. After the drainage, infection gets smaller and pain improves dramatically. Oral antibiotics may be needed to clear the infection. Sometimes a lab test, called aerobic or anaerobic culture, is done to establish the identity of actual bacteria causing the boil and to determine the activity of common antibiotics against it, so appropriate antibiotics can be prescribed. At home warm compresses can help open and drain the boils. You can use a clean washcloth, soaked in warm water, and applying on boils for 15 minutes, 2-3 times daily, to help drain the boil. Using over the counter benzoyl peroxide washes can also help. You should not pop the boil as doing so can worsen the infection. You should seek care of your dermatologist if:

● Your symptoms worsen (size, pain, redness)

● The boil recurs

● Your boil is on your face or spine

● You develop fevers (100.4 or higher) or chills

There are many infections that can present like boils. Click here to read about them. It is important to establish the correct diagnosis and initiate timely treatment to prevent complications, especially in individuals with weakened immune systems.