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Boils

Treatment For Skin Abscesses

Boils, also known as abscesses, are skin infections that stem from oil glands or hair follicles. The abundance of sweat glands around the face, shoulders, neck, and armpits make these common areas for boils to form. An individual boil is not an urgent medical issue, but the presence of several boils is when our dermatologists need to help.

The dermatology associates at Advanced Dermatology and Skin Surgery are well versed in the treatment of mild to severe boils. We aim to provide personalized treatment for our patients, keeping in mind your end goals and other skin conditions.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation, discuss boil treatments, and learn more about the wide range of skin conditions we treat.

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Types Of Boils

Boils come in many different types. Depending on the type, one of our dermatologists will recommend the correct course of treatment. The different types of boils include the following. Contact us for more information.

Hidradenitis Suppurativa

Hidradenitis suppurativa is a condition when multiple abscesses form under the armpits and in the groin area. It occurs in these areas because of hair follicle inflammation. This type of boil is challenging to treat with antibiotics alone and typically requires a surgical procedure to remove the hair follicles to stop the inflammation.

Carbuncle

A carbuncle is caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. Because it involves a high number of hair follicles, it’s larger than a typical furuncle or boil. Carbuncles are a severe type of boil, so patients might experience fever or chills alongside the openings in the skin. Carbuncles require treatment right away.

Eyelid Stye

A sty, or stye, is a tender, red bump located at the base of an eyelash or under or inside the eyelid. It results from a localized inflammation of the glands or a hair follicle of the eyelid. A sty is sometimes confused with a chalazion, but the latter is usually painless and caused by obstruction and inflammation of an oil gland, not an infection.

Pilonidal Cyst

A pilonidal cyst is a special kind of abscess that occurs in or above the buttocks’ crease. They often begin as tiny areas of inflammation. Over time, however, irritation from direct pressure might enlarge the inflamed area into a firm, tender nodule. This nodule could make it difficult to sit without pain. Pilonidal cysts commonly occur after long trips involving sitting.

Cystic Acne

Cystic acne is a type of skin abscess that forms when oil and dead skin cells clog a hair follicle, creating a toxic environment where bacteria grow and thrive. It affects deeper skin tissue than regular acne, leading to firm, painful cysts. Cystic acne is most common on the face and shoulders. It typically occurs when patients are teenagers, though it can affect adults too.

What Causes Boils?

There are numerous causes of boils. Some boils come from a bacterial infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus, a type of bacteria found on the skin and inside the nose. Others might be caused by an ingrown hair or a splinter/foreign body that’s been lodged in the skin. Many times, it’s difficult to pin down the exact cause of a boil. The bottom line is that any break in the skin, such as a cut or scrape, can develop into a boil if it becomes infected with bacteria.

Boil Treatments

Treatment for boils uses both home remedies and dermatological methods depending on the severity of the boil itself. Some of the most common treatments for boils at home include the following. Contact us to learn more about your treatment options. 

  • Don’t touch it. Refrain from squeezing, scratching, draining, or popping the boil on your own — this can push the infection deeper into the skin. 
  • Gently wash. When you need to clean the boil, be sure only to use gentle soap and water, and lightly wash the area. Afterward, make sure the boil and surrounding skin is dry. 
  • Utilize heat. Put a wet, warm compress on the boil for 20–30 minutes, four times a day. Do this as soon as you notice the boil.
  • Let it drain. Using consistent heat aids helps the boil drain after 5–7 days. If the boil starts draining, continue to clean it gently and apply heat for three days after it opens. 
  • Avoid sharing. If you have a boil, don’t share towels or washcloths with other people — this helps prevent the infection from spreading.

When To See A Dermatologist

Sometimes home treatment for a boil isn’t enough, and it’s time to book an appointment with a dermatologist. Medical treatments for boils mostly involve professional lancing/draining of the boil or antibiotics. Seek medical attention if you notice any of the following, and contact our team immediately.

  • Boil is on the face, spine, or anus
  • Keeps getting larger 
  • Painful lumps near the boil
  • Severe pain
  • Feverish 
  • Red streaks leading from the boil 
  • You have diabetes
  • Boil is the size of a ping pong ball 
  • No improvement after 5–7 days
  • Consistent boils over several months

How To Prevent Boils

It's not always possible to prevent boils completely, especially if a patient has a weakened immune system. But specific measures may help avoid staph infections, the most common cause of boils. 

  • Wash your hands regularly with mild soap — it’s the best defense against germs.
  • Keep wounds covered with sterile, dry bandages until they heal.
  • Avoid sharing personal items that can harbor and spread bacteria, such as sheets, towels, razors, athletic equipment, and clothes, among other personal items.

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