Boils (Skin Abscesses)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Causes of Boils (Skin Abscesses)

Individuals who have ingrown hairs may experience a painful acne-like eruption after shaving. The upper skin layers may have some dilation of the small superficial blood vessels, which gives the skin a red or flushed appearance. Pustules and rare abscesses may form on the ingrown hair sites due to the infection with common skin bacteria, such as Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas.

Quick GuideBoils: Causes, Symptoms, and Home Remedies

Boils: Causes, Symptoms, and Home Remedies

Boils facts

  • A boil, or skin abscess, is a collection of pus that forms in the skin.
  • Boils symptoms and signs include:
    • a firm reddened bump,
    • tender, swollen skin surrounding the bump,
    • the bump may increase in size,
    • pus-filled head on the bump, which may spontaneously drain, weep, or ooze.
  • Antibiotics alone can be inadequate in treating abscesses. The primary treatments for boils include hot packs and draining ("lancing") the abscess but only when it is soft and ready to drain. Most boils resolve on their own or with home remedies.
  • If the individual has a fever or long-term illness, such as cancer or diabetes, or is taking medications that suppress the immune system, he or she should contact a health-care professional if a boil (abscess) develops.
  • There are a number of ways to reduce the likelihood of developing some forms of boils, but boils are not completely preventable.
  • Boils themselves are not contagious, but the bacteria that cause boils are. Continue Reading
Picture of a Boil (Skin Abscess)
Picture: What does a boil look like?
Reviewed on 2/19/2016
References
REFERENCES:

Kasper, D., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2015.

Satter, Elizabeth Kline. "Folliculitis." Medscape.com. Dec. 11, 2013. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1070456-overview>.

Singhal, Hemant. "Skin and Soft Tissue Infections - Incision, Drainage, and Debridement." Medscape.com. May 8, 2012. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1830144-overview>.

IMAGES:

1. iStock

2. Peggy Firth and Susan Gilbert for WebMD

3. "Fitzpatrick's Color Atlas & Synopsis of Clinical Dermatology"; Klaus Wolff, Richard Allen Johnson, Dick Suurmond; Copyright 2005, 2001, 1997, 1993 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. All Rights reserved.

4. MedicineNet

5. Getty Images

6. iStock

7. iStock

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9. iStock/Getty IMages

10. Getty Images

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