What is a boil?

You may have noticed, at one time or another, a collection of pus underneath your skin, possibly with visible dead tissue on the outside. This skin condition is known as a boil, or sometimes a furuncle. Clusters of boils may also form nearby each other, in which case the group is known as a carbuncle. The boil is generally brought on when there is an infection of hair follicles by bacteria.


Along with the previously mentioned pus and dead tissue, additional symptoms can become apparent when a boil forms on the skin. The skin disease can cause the lump to also become red in color, and it may be painful, as well as tender to the touch. Boils can be found in numerous places on the body, while some frequent locations of occurrence include: face, back, back, stomach, shoulders, thighs, buttocks, and eyes, amongst others.

In some cases, a foul odor may come from discharge that is drained from a boil. This is related to the bacteria in the infection.

Swollen lymph nodes and fever are also possible symptoms in more severe infections. If a boil recurs, the condition is known as chronic furunculosis.


The common cause of boils is bacteria, for instance, Staphylococcus (Staph). The bacteria infects hair follicles, in turn bringing on skin diseases such as abscesses and cellulitis.


In many cases, a boil will clear up within 10 days, often less. Sometimes, the process can be quickened by soaking the boil in warm water, which may relieve some pain and speed up the pus drainage. After the pus has drained, antibacterial soap can be used on the region, after which it is bandaged. Epsom salt (magnesium sulphate) as paste can be placed on the area of the infection to reduce bacteria growth, while drying the boil and absorbing pus.

In cases of severe boils or additional concerns, a doctor may diagnose the medical condition and prescribe certain medications.

Some boils are brought on by CA-MRSA (short for: community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). As MRSA can speed up the infection growth rate, proper medication against it should be prescribed quickly.

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