Boils : Causes, symptoms and treatments


Boils are infections occurring in the hair follicle or the oil glands. When the pores get clogged, the dirt and oil trapped inside become the breeding ground for bacteria. First, the skin turns red after which a tender lump develops in the area. After about a week, the infected area forms a bigger lump and starts accumulating pus inside it. Boils usually occur in areas such as buttocks, armpits, face, neck, shoulders and sometimes eyelids. The ones occurring in the eyelid are called sty or stye. If the boils occur in a cluster, the condition is known as a carbuncle.

What are the causes of boils?

Boils are caused due to a certain clan of bacteria known as the staphylococcal bacteria. These bacteria enter the body through pores, tiny openings, and cuts and travel down the hair follicle to take root in the oil glands. These bacteria start causing boils when they get trapped within along with the grime and oil from the glands. The triggering factor for boils include

  • Diabetes
  • Poor immunity
  • Poor nutrition
  • Poor hygiene
  • Prolonged exposure of the skin to pollution and harsh chemicals


Boils start off as reddened spots on the skin, which are painful and hard on touching. As they mature, they turn softer and form a bigger lump. Within 4 to 7 days, they start to get filled with pus and are very painful. If the condition gets severe, following symptoms are seen.

  • The skin surrounding the boil gets infected too, and the entire area becomes red, swollen and warm
  • More boils develop around the infected area
  • There is a swelling of the lymph nodes along with fever


Boils are not a highly threatening condition. However, if the bacteria from the infected area enter the blood stream, they can travel to other areas of the body resulting in more boils and greater discomfort. This rapid spreading of boils is known as blood poisoning and can also cause deep infections in the heart and bone.

Any healthy person can get affected by boils. However, the likelihood increases if the person comes in direct contact with an affected person. Weakened immunity and diabetes reduce the body’s ability to fight infections, thus leaving them more susceptible to boils and carbuncles. You could also gradually develop boils from other pre-existing skin conditions such as acne and eczema.


Boils are generally treated at home by applying warm pressure over the area to relieve pain and squeezing out the pus followed by an application of antiseptic or antibacterial creams. Medical help is only taken if the condition has grown severe enough. This would include making an incision on the boil and draining out the pus. If the infection is quite deep, sterile gauzes are inserted into the cavity to soak up the excess pus. If the condition is recurrent, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics. You could also use antibacterial soaps on a regular basis to prevent and treat boils, especially if you are prone to their occurence.

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