A boil is a red, swollen, painful bump under the skin. It often starts in an infected hair follicle. Bacteria form an abscess or pocket of pus. Boils can occur anywhere. They are most common on the face, neck, armpits, buttocks, groin, and thighs.
There are several types:
- Furuncle or carbuncle—come from staph infections, may occur in a group
- Pilonidal cyst—forms in the crease of the buttocks
- Cystic acne—occurs when oil ducts become clogged and infected
- Hidradenitis suppurativa—a rare condition with multiple abscesses in the armpit and groin area
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Treatment depends on the severity of the boils and if there are other health problems. Some boils drain on their own. Others can spread and cause serious problems.
Options may be:
- Home care, such as:
- Applying warm compresses or soaking the boil in warm water
- Cleaning the boil, applying ointments, and bandaging
- Medical treatment, such as:
- The doctor makes an incision and drains the boil
- Antibiotics—for those with certain problems or health conditions
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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a (Carbuncle; Furuncle; Cutaneous Abscess; Skin Abscess; Abscess, Cutaneous; Abscess, Skin)
American Academy of Dermatology https://www.aad.org
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians https://familydoctor.org
Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.canada.ca
College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca
Acne. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acne . Accessed January 29, 2021.
Boils. DermNet New Zealand website. Available at: https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/boils. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Hidradenitis suppurativa. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hidradenitis-suppurativa . Accessed January 29, 2021.
Nodulocystic acne. DermNet New Zealand website. Available at: https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/nodulocystic-acne. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Nowicka D, Grywalska E. Staphylococcus aureus and host immunity in recurrent furunculosis. Dermatology. 2019;235(4):295-305.
Pilonidal disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/pilonidal-disease. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Skin abscesses, furuncles, and carbuncles. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/skin-abscesses-furuncles-and-carbuncles . Accessed January 29, 2021.