“Furuncle” is another word for a “boil.” Boils are bacterial infections of hair follicles that also involve the surrounding tissue. The infected hair follicle can be on any part of your body, not only your scalp.
When the hair follicle becomes infected, it appears inflamed. The furuncle looks like a red, raised bump on your skin that is focused on a hair follicle. If it ruptures, cloudy fluid or pus drains out.
Furuncles most commonly appear on the face, neck, thigh, and buttocks.
A furuncle may begin as a benign-looking bump on your skin, like a pimple. However, as the infection worsens, the boil can become hard and painful.
The boil contains pus as a result of your body’s attempt to fight the infection. Pressure may build, which may cause the furuncle to burst and release its fluids.
The pain may be at its worst right before a furuncle ruptures and will most likely improve after it drains.
According to the Mayo Clinic, furuncles start out small but can increase in size to over 2 inches. The skin around the infected hair follicle may become red, swollen, and tender. Scarring is also possible.
The development of several boils that connect in the same general area of your body is called a carbuncle. Carbuncles may be more associated with symptoms like a fever and chills. These symptoms may be less common with a single boil.
Bacteria typically cause a furuncle, the most common being Staphylococcus aureus — which is why furuncles can also be called staph infections. S. aureus normally resides on some areas of the skin.
S. aureus can cause an infection in situations where there are breaks in the skin, such as a cut or a scratch. Once the bacteria invade, your immune system tries to fight them. The boil is actually the result of your white blood cells working to eliminate the bacteria.
You are more likely to develop a boil if your immune system is compromised or if you have a medical condition that slows down the healing of your wounds.
Your risk can also increase if you engage in close, personal contact with someone who already has a staph infection.
Many people don’t need to see a doctor for treatment unless a boil remains large, unruptured, or very painful for more than 2 weeks. Usually, a furuncle will already have drained and begun to heal within this time frame.
Treatment for stubborn furuncles generally includes steps to promote drainage and healing. Warm compresses can help speed the rupturing of a furuncle. Apply a warm, moist compress throughout the day to facilitate drainage.
Continue to apply warmth to provide both healing and pain relief after a boil has ruptured.
Wash your hands as well at the boil site with an antibacterial soap to avoid spreading the staph bacteria to other areas of your body.
Contact your doctor if your furuncle remains unruptured or if you are in severe pain. You may need antibiotics as well as incision and drainage to clear the infection.
Your doctor may also elect to manually drain the boil with sterile instruments in their office. Don’t try to open it yourself by squeezing, pricking, or cutting the boil. This can increase your risk of deeper infection and severe scarring.
The majority of furuncles heal without medical intervention or complications, but in rare cases, boils can lead to more complicated and dangerous medical conditions.
Bacteremia is an infection of the bloodstream that may occur after having a bacterial infection, such as a furuncle. If untreated, it can lead to severe organ dysfunction such as sepsis.
When infection is due to methicillin-resistant S. aureus, we call it MRSA. This type of bacteria can cause boils and make treatment difficult.
This infection can be very difficult to treat and requires specific antibiotics for treatment.
Prevent furuncles through good personal hygiene. If you do have a staph infection, here are some tips to try to prevent the infection from spreading:
- Wash your hands often.
- Follow wound care instructions from your doctor, which may include gentle cleansing of wounds and keeping wounds covered with bandages.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as sheets, towels, clothing, or razors.
- Wash bedding in hot water to kill the bacteria.
- Avoid contact with other people infected with staph or MRSA infections.