another word for a boil. Boils are bacterial or fungal infections of hair
follicles. The infected hair follicle can be on any part of your body, not only
your scalp. When the hair follicle becomes infected, the skin around it becomes
inflamed. The furuncle looks like a red, raised bump on your skin and will rupture
and weep fluid.
Furuncles are most commonly found on the face and neck. You might
also develop a boil on your thigh or buttocks.
Symptoms of a Furuncle
A furuncle may begin as a benign-looking bump on your skin,
similar to a pimple. However, as the infection worsens, the boil can become hard
and painful. Bacteria and dead skin cells may build up under the skin, forming
pus. Pressure builds, which may cause the furuncle to burst and release its
The pain is usually at its worst right before a furuncle ruptures
and will most likely improve after it drains.
According to the Mayo
Clinic, furuncles range in size from as small as a pea to as big as a golf
ball. The skin around the infected hair follicle may become red, swollen, and
tender. Scarring is also possible.
The development of several boils in the same general area of your
body is called a carbuncle. Carbuncles
may cause a fever and chills. These symptoms are less common with a single
What Causes Furuncles?
Any type of bacteria or fungi can cause a furuncle. The most
common bacterium is Staphylococcus aureus, hence why furuncles can also
be called staph infections. Everyone has S. aureus on their skin as a
normal occurrence. The bacterium causes an infection only if it enters your
bloodstream through an open wound, such as a cut or a scratch. Once the
bacterium is in your blood, your immune system tries to fight it and the boil
is actually the result of your white blood cells working to eliminate it.
You are more likely to develop a boil if your immune system is
compromised or if you have a medical condition that slows down the healing of
your wounds. Diabetes and eczema, a chronic skin disorder characterized by
extremely dry, itchy skin, are two examples of chronic conditions that may
increase your risk of getting a staph infection. Your risk can also increase if
you engage in close, personal contact with someone who already has a staph
Many people do not need to see a doctor for treatment unless a
boil remains large, unruptured, or very painful for more than two weeks. Usually
a furuncle will already have drained and begun to heal within this timeframe.
Treatment for stubborn furuncles generally includes steps to
promote drainage and healing. Warm compresses can help speed the rupturing of a
furuncle. Apply a warm, moist compress throughout the day to facilitate
Continue to apply warmth to provide both healing and pain relief
after a boil has ruptured. Wash your hands and the boil site thoroughly and
frequently with warm water and antibacterial soap to avoid spreading the staph
bacteria to other areas of your body.
Contact your doctor if your furuncle remains unruptured or if you
are in severe pain after a couple of weeks. You may need antibiotics to clear
the infection. Your doctor may also elect to manually drain the boil with
sterile instruments in their office. Do not try to open it yourself by
squeezing, pricking, or cutting the boil. This can increase your risk of deeper
infection and severe scarring.
Complications from Furuncles
The majority of furuncles heal without medical intervention or
complications, but in rare cases, boils can lead to more complicated and
dangerous medical conditions.
Blood poisoning is an infection of the bloodstream that may occur
after having a furuncle. This type of infection, called sepsis, can lead to infections in the heart’s lining or in the
Another possible complication associated with boils is the
development of an infection called MRSA.
MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is resistant to many
antibiotics used to treat furuncles. This infection is more serious and your
doctor will most likely prescribe a different kind of antibiotic called
vancomycin if you develop this infection.
Prevent furuncles through good personal hygiene. If you do have a
staph infection, to keep it at bay and prevent it from spreading:
- wash your hands often
- clean all open wounds and keep wounds covered
- avoid sharing personal items such as sheets,
towels, clothing, or razors
- wash bedding in hot water or bleach to kill the
- avoid contact with other people infected with
staph or MRSA