General Illness Information

Common Name: BOILS

Medical Term: Furuncles and Carbuncles


Hair follicles occasionally get infected. When infected hair follicles separate (form pus) furuncles are formed. Furuncles are cutaneous (skin) abscesses. Carbuncles start as furuncles. Furuncles that extend or bore through the subcutaneous tissues are called carbuncles. These can occur anywhere on the skin, but are most common on neck, face, buttocks, and breasts.


Infection, usually from Staphylococcus bacteria, that begins in the hair follicle and extends into the skin’s deeper layers.


Keep the skin clean, wash regularly. If someone in the household has a boil, don’t share towels or washcloths or clothing with that person. If you have a chronic disease (such as diabetes mellitus), be sure to follow your medical regimen.

Signs & Symptoms

  • A nodule that is painful, tender and red and has pus on the surface. Boils can appear suddenly and ripen in 24 hours. They are usually 1-1/2 cm to 3 cm in diameter, some are larger.
  • Fever (rare).
  • Swelling of the closest lymph glands.

Risk Factors

  • Diabetes mellitus.
  • Illness that has lowered resistance.
  • Poor nutrition, poor hygiene.
  • Use of immunosuppressive drugs.

Diagnosis & Treatment

General Measures:

  • Diagnosis is usually determined by the appearance of the red, inflamed swelling. Sending the material from the boil for culture and sensitivity studies may make a laboratory study.
  • Do not burst a boil as this may spread bacteria.
  • Taking showers instead of baths reduces chances of spreading the infection.
  • Relieve pain with gentle heat from warm-water soaks. Use 3 or 4 times daily for 20 minutes. Wash your hands carefully after touching the boil.
  • Prevent the spread of boils by using clean towels only once or using paper towels and discarding them.
  • Doctor’s treatment may include incision and drainage of the boil.


  • Antibiotics may be prescribed if infection is severe.
  • Don’t use non-prescription antibiotic creams or ointments on the boil’s surface. They are ineffective.


Decrease activity until the boil heals. Avoid sweating and avoid contact sports (such as wrestling) while lesions are present.


No special diet.

Possible Complications :

  • The infection may enter the bloodstream and spread to other body parts.
  • Scarring.
  • Boils may recur.
  • Local spread may occur.


Excellent with treatment.

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