What is a Carbuncle?

A carbuncle is a group of numerous boils on the skin related to infected hair follicles triggered by a bacterial infection caused most commonly by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. It is very contagious and could extend to other areas of the body and may also spread to other susceptible individuals.

Compared to a furuncle which is an infection of a hair follicle and the proximate tissue, a carbuncle is a much more severe condition which in fact, involves a number of furuncles that are tightly packed together which occurs deep down in the skin. When there is more than one carbuncle forming, the skin condition is termed as carbunculosis. If left untreated or if not resolved promptly, a number of bacteria, dead tissue debris, fluid and pus form. The infective fluid may drain out of the carbuncle but in some instances, the mass is so deep-seated that it can’t drain on its own. Carbuncles classically appear on the neck, but they may also form anywhere. Other common symptoms include a lump on the skin about several centimeters in diameter, hyperthermia, itching and severe discomfort.

The immediate cause of a carbuncle still cannot be concluded. Factors that may predispose to the formation of a carbuncle include friction from tight clothing, shaving, skin damage, poor hygiene, acne, eczema, overall poor health, chronic disease such as diabetes and weakened immune system.

Since this condition usually involves a considerable amount of fluid and pus, a surgical procedure known as incision and drainage is performed to drain out the fluid and allow the infection to heal inside and out. The usual drugs prescribed by doctors to treat Staphylococcus infections are antibiotics. Never try to break open a carbuncle without doctor’s supervision for it to pump out, as doing so could spread the bacteria and worsen the condition. As soon as a carbuncle begins to drain, the immediate area must be cleaned using warm, moist cloth to speed up the healing process. Proper medical hand washing is very essential so make it as a habit. W

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