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General Dermatology


Also known as skin abscesses, boils form as a result of a cut or break in the skin, which leads to a bacterial infection. They are characterized as a red, tender area with a painful, pus-filled center that can open spontaneously or by surgical incision. Some boils are caused by an ingrown hair. Others are caused by plugged-up sweat glands, such as some types of cystic acne. Anyone can get a boil. They grow quickly and are usually painful until they drain. However, left alone a boil will naturally come to a head and burst open, allowing the pus to drain and the skin to heal. People with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to boils than the general population.

Boils tend to occur on parts of the body that have hair or sweat glands and are exposed to friction, typically on the face, neck, armpits or buttocks. There are a variety of different types of boils:

  • Furuncle or carbuncle an abscess in the skin caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus; a furuncle usually involves one hair follicle. Carbuncles form abscesses on several hair follicles.
  • Cystic acne most common on the face, especially during the teen years, cystic acne forms when oil ducts become clogged and infected.
  • Hidradenitis Suppurativa with hidradenitis suppurativa, multiple abscesses form under the armpits and in the groin area, usually because of local inflammation of the sweat glands. Often the involved sweat glands will need surgical removal to stop the inflammation.
  • Pilonidal cyst this unique kind of abscess occurs in the crease of the buttocks. Pilonidal cysts often begin as tiny areas of infection in the hair follicles and can become very painful.This condition almost always has to be medically treated.

Boils respond well to home remedies. To promote healing, apply heat to the boil in the form of hot soaks or compresses. Keep the area clean, apply over-the-counter antibiotics and then cover with gauze. Do not puncture or squeeze the boil because it can lead to further infection. If the boil does not go away within two weeks, is accompanied by a fever or is painful, contact your dermatologist. The doctor will clean, lance and drain the boil and prescribe an antibiotic to alleviate the infection

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