Boils are infections of the hair follicles caused by bacteria which result in painful swellings on the skin. These swellings may appear anywhere on the skin even though they commonly affect the buttocks, armpits, neck, elbow and face. Boils are also called as skin abscess.
They usually start as small, red bumps which eventually become hard and firm with a soft centre. The bump increasingly becomes filled with pus, a fluid containing dead blood cells and other waste substances which the body uses to fight off infection. A cluster of bumps are called as carbuncle.
- Pain in the affected skin area
- Tender lump
- Pus filled bump
- Swelling which is hard and firm at periphery and tender at the center
- Redness of the swollen area
- More boils formation around affected area
- Swollen lymph nodes
Boils result from infection to the hair follicle caused by bacteria. The most common bacteria which cause boils are Staphylococcus aureus. This bacteria under normal circumstances doesn’t cause disease, however, when the body’s immune system is compromised they can infect hair follicles.
The body in turn sends disease fighting agents through the blood to the affected area to attack these bacteria and get rid of the infection. The dead organisms and substances as well as the dead bacteria accumulate increasingly in fluid called pus which results in a lump. The collection of this dead material called pus is what drains out when a boil is cut open.
Certain factors can make some people more susceptible to having boils than others. These include:
- Skin Diseases – Skin diseases break the skin protection against entry of bacteria. This allows more bacteria to cause infections which in turn can lead to boil formation.
- Close Contact With Someone Who Has A Boil – Boils are contagious and coming into contact with someone who has it increases your risk of getting infected too.
- Previous History Of A Boil – People who have had a boil in the past are more likely to have it again.
- Reduced Immunity – When the immune system is reduced, normal bacterial which otherwise wouldn’t have caused disease start to cause diseases. Reduced immunity increases the chance of infection of the hair follicle which in turn will lead to a boil formation. Reduced immunity may result from poor nutrition or diseases like HIV and diabetes.
- Antibiotic Abuse – Some bacteria naturally live on the skin to fight other bacteria and prevent them from causing diseases. Abuse of antibiotics may kill these good bacteria unnecessarily and predispose the skin to harmful bacteria which may in turn cause boils.
- Poor Personal Hygiene – Poor hygiene predisposes the skin to harmful organisms. If the skins protection is not optimal these organisms can penetrate the skin and cause infections which may lead to boil formation.
- Sharing Personal Items – Sharing personal items like clothing, towels among others may facilitate the spread of bacterial infections.
If a boil is not treated well, the causative bacteria may travel through the blood to other parts of the body and cause serious infections.
- It may led to new boils formation
- Endocarditis – An infection of inner layer of heart
- Sepsis – An infection of the blood or blood poisoning
- Osteomyelitis – Acute bone infection
- Gangrene – Tissue death around infected area
- MRSA – Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection
Skin Abscess Prevention
- Take Good Care Of Your Skin – Regular skin care is important for maintaining skin health and for equipping the body to ward off skin problems.
- Maintain Good Hygiene – Good hygiene is important for minimising exposure to disease causing organisms and substances.
- Avoid Sharing Personal Items – Sharing of personal items is one of the common ways of spreading bacteria from infected persons. Avoiding this is a great way to protect you from contracting bacterial infections.
- Avoid Antibiotic Abuse – Overuse of antibiotics can kill good bacteria which prevent harmful organisms from causing diseases or lead to antibiotic resistance. These make the body susceptible to many conditions which could have been easily prevented by the immune system. It is advisable to only use antibiotics if they’ve been prescribed by your doctor.
- Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle – Maintaining healthy diets, regular exercising among others are sure ways of keeping your immune system strong and capable of fighting against infections.
- Wash hands regularly
- Clean cuts, wounds on skin with soap and water and apply OTC antibacterial ointment
- Bandage cuts and wounds
Read more on Boils On Buttocks
In the hospital, boils may be drained by cutting into the tip (laceration). This procedure must be done with care by a qualified professional. It is also important that a boil is drained thoroughly to prevent another boil formation at an adjacent area.
Doctors may also prescribe antibiotics to facilitate recovery and prevent recurrence. Dicloxacillin or Cephalexin antibiotics may be prescribed to treat boils. Doxycycline or Clindamycin antibiotics will be prescribed if the infection is caused by Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
- Warm Compress – The application of a damp towel or hot water bottle may help to ease pain and lead to a rupture of the boil. The heat applied will dilate blood vessels and allow more disease fighting and repair agents to arrive at the area of the boil and cure it.
- Regular Cleansing – Keeping the area of the boil cleansed speeds up recovery and healing and may result in a natural drainage of the boil.
A boil may also drain naturally with the use of drugs. It is advised to desist from squeezing it. It is best to allow natural drainage or drainage by a qualified professional if required.
Can Boils Be Sexually Transmitted?
Boils are not considered to be sexually transmitted infections even though body contact with a person who has a boil can result in having a boil too.
Sexually transmitted diseases are reserved for conditions which can be contracted through sexual contact. Boils do not require sex in order to spread from one person to the other.
Can Boils Spread From One Person To The Other?
Yes, boils can spread from one person to the other. The bacteria which cause boils can spread through body contact from an infected person to another person. If immunity is reduced, these bacteria can cause infections which may lead to boil formation in the other person.