Boils are skin infections that start as a reddish, sensitive spot on the surface. The area becomes firmer, harder, and more painful over time. To remove the infection, the center of the boil softens and becomes filled with infection-fighting white blood cells from the bloodstream.
Pus is a substance made up of white blood cells, microorganisms, and proteins. Finally, the pus forms a “head,” which can be surgically opened or drained out naturally through the skin’s surface. An abscess is a collection of pus contained within the tissue. Boils can appear on the eyes, trunk, extremities, buttocks, armpits, groin, and other parts of the body.
Causes of Boils
The skin is an essential part of our immune defense against materials and microbes that are foreign to our bodies. Any break in the skin, such as a cut or scrape, can develop into an abscess should it become infected with bacteria.
Boils can be caused by a variety of factors. An ingrown hair might be the source of certain boils. Others can develop as a result of a splinter or other foreign object becoming trapped in the skin. Others, such as acne boils, are produced by infected sweat glands that have become clogged.
The specific cause of a boil is frequently unknown. The skin is an important aspect of our immune system’s defense against external materials and bacteria. If a break in the skin, such as a cut or scrape, becomes infected with bacteria, it can turn into an abscess.
Treatment of Boils
The majority of small boils can be treated at home. Treatment should ideally begin as soon as they are discovered, as early treatment may help to avoid difficulties later on.
Heat application, usually in the form of hot or warm water soaks or warm compresses, is the most common home cure for most boils. It may be essential to apply them three to four times a day for 20 minutes each time. Heat therapy improves circulation in the area, allowing the body to fight the infection more effectively by delivering antibodies and white blood cells to the infection site.
If a boil develops as a result of shaving, it’s best to stop shaving that region until it has healed to prevent bacteria from spreading.
Even if the area is uncomfortable, opening the area and draining the boil is not useful as long as it is small and hard. However, once the boil softens or “forms a head”, it is ready to drain (lance). With hot soaks, the minor ones, such as those that form around hairs, drain on their own.
Medical treatment is sometimes necessary, especially with bigger boils. The boil will need to be drained or “lanced” by a medical practitioner in this case. These larger boils frequently contain many pus pockets that must be opened and drained.
Antibiotics sold over the counter are frequently used to treat any bacterial infection that may be present, particularly if the infection has spread to the surrounding skin. Antibiotics, on the other hand, are not always required. Antibiotics, in fact, have a hard time penetrating the outer wall of an abscess and are frequently ineffective without extra surgical drainage.
The choice of antibiotic is based on the type of infection present as well as the results of testing to identify the specific bacteria infecting the area. Topical medicines of clindamycin (Cleocin), mupirocin (Bactroban), and cephalexin have all been used in the treatment of boils (Keflex).