Boils often start as a red, tender area. Over time, that area will become firm and hard, and may be tender to the touch. The center of the affected area, the abscess, will eventually soften and fill with liquid.
This process is the direct result of the body’s natural defenses — white blood cells sent to combat an infection.
This collection also consists of bacteria and proteins that are more commonly referred to as pus. There are many different types of boils each with varying treatments, including over-the-counter medications and at-home remedies.
Symptoms of Boils
Some boils are caused by an ingrown hair or a foreign material lodged in the skin, such as a splinter. Acne can also result in a boil when sweat glands become plugged and lead to an infection. Anyone can develop a boil. Those with illnesses like kidney failure, diabetes, and hypogammagloulinema are at a higher risk for developing a boil, however. Those taking medications like those administered during chemotherapy and the drug prednisone are also more likely to develop a boil. There are several different types of boils:
- Furuncle or carbuncle: This is caused by bacterium, otherwise known as Staphylococcus aureus. A furuncle may have one or more openings into the skin and you may experience fever and/or chills.
- Cystic acne: caused by oil ducts becoming clogged by improper hygiene and becomes infected. This acne affects very deep skin tissue and does not cause the inflammation of the more common acne.
- Hidradentis suppurativa: numerous abscesses form under the armpits and in the groin area, where sweat glands are more prevalent. Surgical treatment to remove the problem sweat glands is often the only treatment.
- Pilonidal cyst: an abscess that occurs in the crease of the buttocks. They often begin in small areas of infection in the hair follicle. These boils often form after a long trip and are quite painful. These boils must often be lanced during treatment.
Treatment of Boils
Most boils can be treated at home. Start treatment immediately with heat application and hot soaks or a hot pack. This heat will increase the circulation to the area allowing the body the opportunity to fight off the infection at a much higher rate by bringing white blood cells and antibodies to the actual site of the boil. Once the boil does become soft and forms a head or a pustule, it is ready to be drained. The pain will diminish once the boil is completely drained.
You may have to lance a larger boil, but this should be done at a doctor’s office. Larger boils contain several pockets of pus that must individually be drained. Doctors will often prescribe an antibiotic to eliminate any further bacterial infection.
Good hygiene is the best way to prevent abscesses from forming. Regular washing using antibacterial soap can help prevent build up on your skin that causes boils. Phisoderm, which is sold over-the-counter, is also a good special wash that can help those who suffer from boils on a more regular basis.
Using a loofah brush can assist with preventing dead skin from building up and clogging your pores. For Pilonidal cysts, it is best to avoid direct pressure on the buttock area and keep the area dry and cleaned with hot water. Acne and hidradentis suppurativa suffers may need to take an antibiotic on a long-term basis to prevent any recurrence of constant abscesses.
Surgical removal of offending sweat glands may be necessary to eliminate boils under your arms or in the groin area. Isotretinoin can be used for cystic acne and is helpful when treating hidradentis suppurativa.