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Boils - Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

 

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A boils looks like a huge pimple that sticks up through the skin. Boils are generally caused by an infection of the hair follicles by Staphylococcus aureus or staph, a strain of bacteria that normally lives on the skin surface. In some cases, boils may develop to form abscesses. It is thought that a tiny cut of the skin allows this bacterium to enter the follicles and cause an infection. Individual boils can cluster together and form an interconnected network of boils called carbuncles. Boils in the armpits can sometimes be caused by anti-perspirant deodorants. 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. Sometimes boils will emit an unpleasant smell, particularly when drained or when discharge is present, due to the presence of bacteria in the discharge.

Most people with boils are otherwise healthy, boils are sometimes related to immune deficiency, anaemia, diabetes or iron deficiency. Boils can occur anywhere on your skin, but appear mainly on your face, neck, armpits, buttocks or thighs - hair-bearing areas where you're most likely to sweat or experience friction. 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. Sometimes boils occur in clusters called carbuncles. A carbuncle is a cluster of boils that often occurs on the back of the neck, shoulders or thighs, especially in older men. Carbuncles cause a deeper and more severe infection than single boils do. Boils and carbuncles should never be squeezed, particularly if they are on the face. Squeezing may force the infection deeper into the skin and possibly into the bloodstream. Only a physician is qualified to lance a boil to encourage drainage. Many boils will rupture and heal on their own.

Causes of Boils

Boils are generally caused by an infection of the hair follicles by Staphylococcus aureus or staph. Staphylococcus bacteria are often found in the nose and throat. The bacteria can also be transmitted via contact with an infected person or an infected article, such as a washcloth or towel. In most cases, however, people who come in contact with the bacteria do not get boils. Bacteria continue to grow while producing substances that invade surrounding cells.

Common causes and risk factors of Boils:

  • An infection of the hair follicles by Staphylococcus aureus or staph.
  • Diseases, such as hypogammaglobulinemia.
  • Poor hygiene or malnutrition.
  • Medications used for cancer chemotherapy.
  • Anti-perspirant deodorants.

Signs and Symptoms of Boils

The symptoms of boils are red, pus -filled lumps that are tender, warm, and painful. Boils tend to get larger and more painful over a few days, before bursting and releasing the pus. 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 some people, itching may develop before the lumps begin to develop. Boils are most often found on the back, underarms, shoulders, face, lip, thighs and buttocks, but may be found elsewhere. The same bacteria that cause the boil may also produce a toxin (poison) that causes blood clots, usually in the blood vessels that are around the boil.

Sign and symptoms may include the following :

  • Pus -filled lumps.
  • A yellow or white point at the center of the lump.
  • Fever and itching.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.

Treatment for Boils

Boils and carbuncles should never be squeezed, particularly if they are on the face. Most simple boils can be treated at home. The primary treatment for most boils is heat application, usually with hot soaks or hot packs. For recurring cases, sufferers may benefit from diet supplements of Vitamin A and E. Antibiotics are often used to eliminate the accompanying bacterial infection. Especially if there is an infection of the surrounding skin, the doctor often prescribes antibiotics. Magnesium sulfate paste applied to the affected area can prevent the growth of bacteria and reduce boils by absorbing pus and drying up the lesion.

Treatment may include:

  • For recurring cases, sufferers may benefit from diet supplements of Vitamin A and E.
  • In serious cases, prescription oral antibiotics such as dicloxacillin or cephalexin, or topical antibiotics, are commonly used.
  • If the boils fail to clear up, a swab should be taken for microbiological culture, in case of methicillin resistant staphylococci.
  • Magnesium sulfate paste applied to the affected area can prevent the growth of bacteria and reduce boils by absorbing pus and drying up the lesion.
  • Antiseptic or antibiotic ointment or gel to apply to the inside of the nostrils.
  • Sometimes, special antibiotics may be prescribed on the recommendation of a specialist, including fucidin, clindamycin, rifampicin and cephalosporins.