What is a boil?

Also termed as a furuncle, a boil is a deep-seated infection of the hair follicle which is generally caused by Staphylococcus aureus. It is a confined dermatological infection that commonly begins as a painful, reddened, inflamed area. After a while, the mottled area becomes firm, rigid, and tender. The white or yellow point at the midpoint of the boil softens and becomes filled with pus. In groups, they are called as carbuncles. Individual may as well develop hyperthermia, swollen lymph nodes, and body weakness.

There are several causes of boil formation. It can be brought by an ingrown hair. The bacterial colonization starts in the hair follicles and produces a localized inflammation. In the case of acne, the reason is the plugged sweat glands becoming infected. The skin forms as a line of defense against materials and pathogens foreign to the body. Any break in the integrity of the skin can become an pustule should it get infected with bacteria. People who have diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, poor sanitation, chemical exposure and those who are immunosuppressed are greatly susceptible to skin infections.

Proper hygiene practices and the frequent use of antibacterial soaps help stop bacteria from accumulating on the skin surface. These measures trim down the odds for the hair follicles to get contaminated.

Opposite to the conventional idea, boils need not to be drained in order to heal; as a matter of fact, opening the infected area can initiate further infections. Never squeeze or lance the boil with needle without the supervision of a doctor because it may just worsen the condition. Heat application is the principal treatment for most boils. Heat application typically with hot soaks enhances blood circulation to the involved area and permits the body to better combat the infection by carrying antibodies and WBCs to the site of infection. Antibiotics are not needed in all situations. They may be recommended by the doctor if there is severe infection after determining the type of bacteria through culture and sensitivity.

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