Boils are skin infections, caused by bacteria called Staphylococcus Aureus. Treatment involves antibiotics, surgical drainage, as well as soaps and ointments. Underlying illnesses need to be considered in those who get recurrent boils.
Staphylococcal abscess, Abscess, Furuncle, Hair follicle infection, Carbuncles, Carbunculosis
What is it?
Boils are infections of the hair follicle and surrounding skin, usually caused by bacteria called Staphylococcus Aureus (Staph).
Boils are very common and most people experience them at some time in their lives.
For practical purposes, boils and furuncles are considered to be the same thing. When several boils occur together and form a large infected area, the condition is called carbunculosis and the infected area is a carbuncle.
Staph infection is the usual cause although other bacteria, as well as fungi, can cause boils. People who get recurrent boils may:
- Be harbouring a resident colony of staph – on the skin or, frequently, in the nose.
- Have a suppressed immune system because of diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or other illness.
Occasionally, but not often, boils are linked to poor personal hygiene.
Boils often begin as tender, red papules and progress to becoming pus-filled lesions. They are most common around the head, neck, armpit, and groin area.
The appearance of boils is usually quite typical but doctors will sometimes remove some pus and ask the laboratory to identify the exact causative infection.
If a person has recurring boils, tests may be needed to exclude underlying problems, as above. In addition, it is often helpful to take a “nasal swab” specimen and see if the nose is harbouring staph infection.
- Antibiotics are often used to treat the infection and prevent spread.
- Drainage: often, it is necessary to “incise and drain” (small incision is made to allow the pus to drain) a boil to allow the pus to escape. This brings great relief to the patient and speeds recovery.
If a person is harbouring a colony of staph, the approach usually involves:
- Long-term antibiotics (usually several weeks)
- Medicated soaps
- Antibiotic ointments and nasal ointments
Boils are painful and inconvenient but not usually dangerous. The exception is any boil on the face – these can spread dangerously if not treated.
Some people do suffer recurring boil problems but correct treatment can usually end this.
If boils indicate underlying illness, which is not common, this will need to be treated.
Boils are skin infections, caused by bacteria called Staphylococcus Aureus. Treatment involves antibiotics, surgical drainage, as well as soaps and ointments.
boils, staphylococcal abscess, abscess, furuncle, hair follicle infection, carbuncles, carbunculosis