A boil is a collection of pus beneath the top layer of skin. It is caused by bacterial infection of a hair follicle, the tiny pit in the surface of the skin in which a hair grows. Boils can cluster under the skin; such a cluster is known as a carbuncle. Boils may result from infection of a cut or scrape in the skin, poor hygiene, cosmetics that clog the pores, exposure to chemicals, and friction from tight clothing or shoes. Perspiration contributes to the development of boils and carbuncles and can make them worse. Boils and carbuncles usually appear on the scalp, beard area of the face, arms, legs, underarms, and buttocks.
Boils begin as tender, inflamed, solid, sometimes painful bumps under the skin that enlarge as they fill with pus. Sometimes the nearby lymph nodes also become enlarged. Boils grow larger for a few days until they rupture, draining 425
pus onto the surface of the skin. Carbuncles discharge their contents through a Skin and number of openings in the surface of the skin. Once they have ruptured, boils Hair and carbuncles are less painful, but inflammation may persist for a few days or weeks. Scarring occurs in most cases.
You may be able to detect a boil on your own. Avoid squeezing or piercing a boil to open it up because the infection could spread. The best way to speed the opening of a boil is to apply warm, wet cloths to the area for 10 to 20 minutes several times a day. If you have a carbuncle or if the boil causes a fever or pain, see your doctor so he or she can prescribe oral antibiotics. In some cases, surgical drainage may be required.
To prevent the spread of boils and carbuncles, do not let others use your towels or washcloths, and be sure to change your clothes and bed linens every day. Launder these items in hot, soapy water before using them again. And always wash your hands after touching the affected area.
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