Boils – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

March 19 21:30 2019 Print This Article

Boils (furuncle, carbuncle) are painful swellings of the skin caused by deep skin infection with bacteria. A boil is a deep form of bacterial folliculitis. Boils usually start as red, tender lumps. The lumps quickly fill with pus, growing larger and more painful until they rupture and drain. Although some boils disappear a few days after they occur, most take about two weeks to heal. Boils can occur anywhere on your skin, but appear mainly on your face, neck, armpits, buttocks or thighs hair-bearing areas where you’re most likely to sweat or experience friction. Sometimes boils occur in clusters called carbuncles. Although anyone can develop boils and carbuncles, people who have diabetes, a suppressed immune system, or acne or other skin problems are at increased risk. Boils usually resolve by themselves, but severe or recurring cases require medical treatment. Options include lancing and draining the boil, and antibiotics.

A boil is a skin disease caused by the inflammation of hair follicles, resulting in the localized accumulation of pus and dead tissues. Individual boils can cluster together and form an interconnected network of boils called carbuncles. Boils are usually caused by a bacteria named Staphylococcus Aureus which are normally found on the skin surface. This common bacterium inhabits the skin, and approximately one third of the population carry the germ in their noses. S. aureus is usually harmless, but it can cause a range of mild to severe infections, if it gains access to deeper tissues. Some people have multiple or recurrent boils. These boils are usually Staph infections (furuncles or carbuncles). The bacteria are picked up somewhere and then live on the skin, crowding out the normal, harmless bacteria we all carry. The source of bacteria may be your own family member or your pet.

Causes of Boils

Boils are caused by a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus (also referred to as “Staph” or sometimes “golden staph”). The bacteria typically enter the body through cuts, scratches, and other breaks in the skin. There are several factors that predispose the growth of bacteria. The main factor is the toxic condition in the blood stream which is due to faulty diet. They also spread by sharing cosmetics, a close human contact or by contact with pus from a boil.

Find common causes and risk factors of Boils

  • Ingrown hair.
  • Weakened immune system.
  • Plugged sweat glands that become infected.
  • Diabetes.
  • Splinter or other foreign material that has become lodged in the skin.
  • The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, or other bacteria.
  • Poor hygiene.
  • Exposure to harsh chemicals.

Signs and Symptoms of Boils

Sign and symptoms may include the following:

  • Fever.
  • Fatigue.
  • Itching.
  • Tenderness and pain.
  • Localized swelling.
  • General Discomfort.
  • Fever and swelling of the lymph glands.
  • Lymph nodes become swollen.

Treatment for Boils

Treatment involves incision and drainage. This procedure involves the use of an injectable local anesthetic with subsequent incision of the abscess, allowing it to drain. Frequently, a packing of gauze is left in its place for 1-2 days. The packing is then removed, allowing the abscess cavity to heal (and close) over the course of several weeks. Soapy tub soaks to this area after the packing is removed can help keep the cavity clean. Antibiotics may be indicated in some cases.

Treatment may include:

  • Apply a topical antiseptic such as povidone iodine or chlorhexidine cream to the boils and cover with a square of gauze.
  • Sometimes minor surgery is needed to open the boil and to drain the pus.
  • An antibiotic taken by mouth is usually required to eliminate the bacteria.
  • Treatment includes warm, wet compresses several times a day. Oral or topical antibiotics may be indicated in some cases.
  • In some cases, other members of the household will need similar treatment, since S. aureus is contagious.
  • Use of antiseptic shampoos and soaps.
  • Frequent laundering of all bedding and towels.
  • Long term use of antibiotics to rid the body of infection.
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