What Are Boils? | What Causes Boils

Boils With Overview – Introduction

What is a boil?

A boil is a localized infection deep in the skin. A boil generally starts as a reddened, tender area. Over time, the area becomes firm and hard. Eventually, the center of the abscess softens and becomes filled with infection-fighting white blood cells that the body sends from the bloodstream to eradicate the infection. This collection of white blood cells, bacteria, and proteins is known as pus. Finally, the pus “forms a head,” which can be surgically opened or spontaneously drain out through the surface of the skin.

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Symptoms

The symptoms of boils are red, pus-filled lumps that are tender, warm, and/or painful. A yellow or white point at the center of the lump can be seen when the boil is ready to drain or discharge pus. In a severe infection, multiple boils may develop and the patient may experience fever and swollen lymph nodes. A recurring boil is called chronic furunculosis.

In some people, itching may develop before the lumps begin to develop. Boils are most often found on the back, stomach, underarms, shoulders, face, lip, eyes, nose, thighs and buttocks, but may be found elsewhere. Boils on the ear tend to be more painful, and can create shooting pain in the entire area when touched.

Sometimes boils will emit an unpleasant smell, particularly when drained or when discharge is present, due to the presence of bacteria in the discharge.

Causes of Boils

Most boils are caused by a bacteria called Staphylococcus. This germ enters the body through tiny breaks in the skin or by traveling down a hair to the follicle.

Certain health problems make people more susceptible to skin infections such as boils. Examples are
diabetes,
problems with the immune system,
poor nutrition,
poor hygiene, and
exposure to harsh chemicals that irritate the skin.

Treatment

General measures:

Consult your doctor about your general health.
If you are overweight, try to reduce your weight; take regular exercise.
Avoid leisure activities which cause sweating and friction from clothing, such as squash and jogging.
If you are iron deficient, a course of iron tablets may help reduce infection.
1000mg of vitamin C each day has also been advocated.
Follow a balanced healthy diet with meat, plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Wash your whole body once a day with soap and water. Wash your hands several times daily.
Don’t share your flannel or towel with other family members.
Maintain a clean handkerchief and don’t pick your nose!
Change your underclothes and night attire regularly.

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