Boils

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Boils

Boil or furuncle is a skin disease caused by the inflammation of hair follicles, thus resulting in the localized accumulation of pus and dead tissues. Individual boils can cluster together and form an interconnected network of boils called carbuncles. In severe cases, boils may develop to form abscesses.

Contents

Symptoms

The symptoms of boils are red, pus-filled lumps that are tender, warm, and/or painful. A yellow or white point at the center of the lump can be seen when the boil is ready to drain or discharge pus. In a severe infection, multiple boils may develop and the patient may experience fever and swollen lymph nodes. A recurring boil is called chronic furunculosis.

In some people, itching may develop before the lumps begin to develop. Boils are most often found on the back, underarms, shoulders, face and buttocks.

Sometimes the boil will emit an unpleasant smell.

Causes

Boils are generally caused by an infection of the hair follicles by Staphylococcus aureus or staph, a strain of bacteria that normally live on the skin surface. It is thought that a tiny cut of the skin allows this bacterium to enter the follicles and cause an infection. This can happen during bathing while using a razor.

People with immune system disorders, diabetes, poor hygiene or malnutrition (Vitamin A or E deficiency) are particularly susceptible to getting boils. However they may also occur in healthy, hygienic individuals.

Hidradenitis suppurativa causes frequent boils.

Treatments

Most boils run their course within 4 to 10 days. For most people, self-care by applying a warm compress or soaking the boil in warm water can help alleviate the pain and hasten draining of the pus (colloquially referred to as "bringing the boil to a head"). Once the boil drains, the area should be washed with antibacterial soap and bandaged well.

For recurring cases, sufferers may benefit from diet supplements of Vitamin A and E.

In serious cases, prescription oral antibiotics such as dicloxacillin (Dynapen) or cephalexin (Keflex), or topical antibiotics, are commonly used. For patients allergic to penicillin-based drugs, erythromycin (E-base, Erycin) may also be used.

However, some boils are caused by a superbug known as community-acquired Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or CA-MRSA. Bactrim or other sulfa drugs must be prescribed relatively soon after boil has started to form. MRSA tends to increase the speed of growth of the infection.

Magnesium sulfate paste applied to the affected area can prevent the growth of bacteria and reduce boils by absorbing pus and drying up the lesion.

Prognosis

For most cases, there are no serious complications and a full recovery is expected.

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