Boils are a painful swollen area on the skin that are sometimes known as a furuncle. They are sometimes mistaken for a large pimple, but are usually much more painful and can reach the size of a golf ball! In most cases they are a mere annoyance, but in serious cases they can cause swollen lymph nodes, fever, fatigue, scarring, abscesses and even blood poisoning (sepsis). They can also reoccur, which is referred to as chronic furunculosis. Boils are contagious and are easily spread between people that have close contact. Let’s take a look at what causes this painful skin condition.
What causes boils?
Boils are an infection of a hair follicle and are usually caused by a bacteria known as Staphylococcus aureus. This bacteria is also known as golden staph and is commonly found on the skin or in the nasal passages of many people. In fact, it is thought that 20% of people are constant carriers of this bacteria. The swelling and pain is caused by a build up of dead tissue and pus within the boil. There are various risk factors for developing boils including; being a carrier of Staphylococcus aureus in the nasal passage, diabetes, weakened immune system and obesity.
What is the treatment for a boil?
It was once common to manually open the boil to allow it to drain, but this is no longer advised because it can cause further infection. However, if the boil looks likely to lead to further problems a doctor may choose to create an incision and drain a boil. The most common treatment today is to wash the area thoroughly, apply antibiotic cream and bandage the affected area. Antibiotics are sometimes given to people with serious or reoccurring boils, but Staphylococcus aureus is extremely antibiotic resistant. Preventing boils is possible with good personal hygiene and avoiding contact with infected people.