A boil, also referred to as a skin abscess, is a localised infection deep in the skin, and it spreads away further from the site of onset.

It may start from a deep folliculitis, but any break in the skin, such as a cut or scrape, can develop into a boil if it is infected with bacteria.


It starts as a red, painful nodule, and as it spreads, it becomes firm and hard. The center then softens and fills with debris containing a large amount of pus, which may discharge spontaneously and heal with or without scarring, depending on the depth of infection. The nearby lymph nodes are almost invariably enlarged and painful.

A collection of boils is called a carbuncle, and in this case, the person can be unwell with a fever. This usually happens in a dense hair area such as the back of the scalp.

Management & Treatments

If a boil is soft and pointing, it can be drained of pus. Heat application will help to draw the pus more to the surface and make the draining easier. Antibiotics are often necessary to eliminate the bacterial infection in addition to drainage.

If recurrent boils are seen, then it may be necessary to investigate the possibility of underlying problems such as diabetes mellitus, or carriage of staphylococcus in the nasal passages.

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