A boil or furuncle is a localized infection deep in the skin. A boil generally starts as a reddened, tender area. It is caused by the inflammation of hair follicles, thus resulting in the localized accumulation of pus and dead tissues. Individual boils can cluster together and form an interconnected network of boils called carbuncles. In severe cases, boils may develop to form abscesses. 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. Boils are most often found on the back, underarms, shoulders, face, lip, 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 ear when touched. It is thought that a tiny cut of the skin allows this bacterium to enter the follicles and cause an infection. This can happen during bathing or while using a razor. Boils in the armpits can sometimes be caused by anti-perspirant deodorants.
A boil is a way for the body to try to cleanse itself of something bad. Small boils usually heal without scarring, but a large boil may leave a scar. Carbuncles cause a deeper and more severe infection than single boils do. In addition, carbuncles develop and heal more slowly and are likely to leave a scar. Carbuncles sometimes occur with a fever. Although anyone can develop boils and carbuncles, people who have diabetes, a suppressed immune system, or acne or other skin problems are at increased risk. Most people with boils are otherwise healthy, boils are sometimes related to immune deficiency, anaemia, diabetes or iron deficiency. If you have an area of skin that is prone to boils or carbuncles, keep the area clean and dry, and avoid wearing tight clothing that doesn't allow the skin to breathe. Washing daily with antibacterial soap also can help. Small boils can be treated with moist heat (usually a warm, wet washcloth) applied for 20 to 30 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day. This will help the boil drain on its own. Large boils and carbuncles may be treated with antibiotics.
Prevention of Boils
- If you have an area of skin that is prone to boils or carbuncles, keep the area clean and dry, and avoid wearing tight clothing that doesn't allow the skin to breathe.
- Washing daily with antibacterial soap also can help.
- If you develop signs of inflammation or infection at a hair follicle as a result of shaving, you should avoid shaving in that area to prevent bacteria from being spread to other parts of the skin.
- If boils frequently recur, underclothing and bed linen should be changed on a daily basis.
- The regular use of an abrasive brush (such as a loufa) often helps. It will help to break up oil plugs that build up around hair follicles.
Home Remedies for Boils
- Apply the juice of onion or garlic on the boils, as it helps in evacuating the pus.
- Cumin seeds are beneficial in healing the boils. Grind the seeds in water so as to form a paste and then apply on the boil-affected area.
- Juice of garlic or onion applied externally on boils helps to ripen them, break them and drain out the pus.
- A cupful of fresh bitter gourd juice mixed with a tsp of lime juice taken on an empty stomach daily treats this condition.
- Milk cream is considered valuable in the treatment of boils.
- A paste of mustard seeds also produces results at its earliest.