What are Boils?

Boils are tender and painful lumps that may often be pus-filled. They typically occur under the skin and may be caused by infected or inflamed hair follicles. Boils may begin as red lumps and gradually grow in size as they become more inflamed. 


To prevent the formation of boils on your skin, you can adopt various healthy measures like following good hygiene, washing your skin thoroughly, covering any wounds and limiting the sharing of personal items. 


In case you or anyone in your family suffers from boils, some home remedies like turmeric, castor oil and epsom salt may offer relief. That said, it is always advisable to visit a doctor promptly for medical assistance.

Boils: Where are They Formed and What are Their Types?


Image Source: Medical News Today

We all know that:


  • Common places for boil development are face, neck, armpit, shoulders, and buttocks.
  • When boils form on or within the eyes, it is known as a stye.
  • In case boils appear in groups, they can get serious over time, and the infection is known as a carbuncle.

However, boils on skin are medically treatable, and you can cure the infection as soon as possible. In this section, let’s discuss the causes, diagnosis, boil treatment, and prevention of boils in detail. Let us begin by understanding the types of boils and its symptoms.

Types of Boils

While there are different types of boils, the following table gives an overview of the most common boils on skin.

Type of Boil



Carbuncle is caused by a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus. It can have one or more openings on your skin and can be followed by fever and chills.

Typically, a carbuncle is a severe skin infection that cannot be cured with home treatments. You will have to get medical attention to prevent its spread and recurrence.

Cystic Acne

When oil ducts get clogged and cause inflammation, a type of abscess/boil known as cystic acne is formed. This skin condition can affect deeper skin tissues and cause unbearable inflammation. Cystic acne is a kind of boil on the face and is common in teenagers.

Hidradenitis Suppurativa

Hidradenitis suppurativa is a skin condition leading to armpit boils or boils in the groin area. It is caused mainly due to local inflammation of the hair follicles. The treatment of this skin infection involves removing the hair follicle surgically to stop skin inflammation.

Pilonidal Cyst

 A pilonidal cyst is a kind of abscess where you will observe boils on the buttocks. Due to irritation from direct pressure, the infected area can become painful and tender over time, causing discomfort when sitting. It is usually caused due to prolonged sitting in one place.

Eyelid Stye

A stye is a boil on the eye, which becomes red and painful over time. It usually is formed on the eyelash or under/inside the eye. It is often confused with a chalazion, but chalazion is usually painless and not infectious.

Boil Symptoms

As stated earlier, boils can appear on any part of the body. They appear most commonly on the face, neck, armpits, thighs, and buttocks. Any hair-bearing area on your body that sweats and experiences friction is most likely to be prone to this skin infection.

Some of the obvious boil symptoms include the following:


  • There is a painful, red bump at the start of the infection. It enlarges over a few days.
  • The skin around the boil gets red, swollen.
  • The boil increases in size and fills with pus.
  • There is a development of a yellow-white tip that ruptures eventually, allowing the pus to drain naturally.

When boils in the body become a severe condition, it is known as a carbuncle. Carbuncle is clusters of boils formed around the parts of the infected area. As compared to boils, carbuncles are severe and are likely to leave scars upon healing. People suffering from carbuncle will experience an unsettling feeling, fever, and chills.

When Should You See a Doctor?

Single boils on your body can be taken care of by yourself. However, you should see a doctor if you more than one boil appears at a time or in the following cases:


  • If the boil develops on your face or it is affecting your vision
  • Gets worse or is extremely painful
  • Causes fever
  • Enlarges despite care
  • Does not heal by itself in two weeks
  • Reappears


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Causes of Boils

Majorly, boils are caused due to Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. It is a bacterium commonly found on the surface of the skin and inside the nose. It causes the formation of boils, which gets filled with pus over time. At times, boils occur over broken/rough skin surfaces around a recent injury or insect bites, giving the bacteria an easy entry.


We’ve enlisted a few risk factors that can increase the chances of developing carbuncles or boil skin infection.


  • You can develop boils or carbuncles if you stay in close contact with someone who has the infection.
  • Having diabetes weakens immunity, which makes you vulnerable to acquiring this and other skin infections.
  • Skin abnormalities such as acne and eczema make you susceptible to other skin infections such as boils, carbuncles, abscess, etc.
  • Weak immunity can be another reason that adults are prone to boil infection.

Diagnosis of Boils

Boils on skin can be detected by their typical symptoms. It does not require any special blood test or lab results for its diagnosis. However, if the infection spreads into the deeper levels of skin tissues or is extensive, you might have to consult a doctor and start antibiotic boil treatment.


In rare cases, the bacteria from the boil or carbuncle can enter your bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body. This spread of infection is commonly known as blood poisoning or sepsis and can lead to complications in your health. It can cause infections such as endocarditis and osteomyelitis.

Are Boils Contagious?

Usually, boils are not contagious. However, the bacteria that causes the infection can spread through skin-to-skin contact and infected items. The bacteria is not harmful until it gets under your skin via minor cuts, wounds, or other infections. Keep reading to know the treatment for boils and carbuncles to avoid its spread.

Boil Treatment

After the diagnosis of boils or carbuncle, the doctor will ask a few questions and recommend tests accordingly. The test is usually for other parts of the body where the skin infection has spread. However, boils can be treated with a few home remedies. Mentioned below are some of the home remedies for boils.

1. Warm Water Soaks

Provide a warm compress and soak the infected area in warm water. Doing this will reduce inflammation and pain and draw the pus to the skin surface. Once the boil develops a tip, it will burst naturally with repeated soaking. Note that this occurs 10 days after the boil first appeared.

2. Use an Anti Bacterial Cleanser

Once the infected boil bursts, wash it with an antibacterial soap until the pus is entirely cleaned. After this, apply a medicated ointment (topical antibiotic) or a bandage to avoid other skin infections. Continue to do so for a few days until the wound heals.

3. No Popping!

Ensure that you do not pop the boil with a pointy object as it can worsen the infection.

In case the infection is severe, immediate medical treatment is recommended. The doctors may take blood samples and prescribe antibiotics if the infection is serious. As the boil drains, a culture is done to examine the type of bacteria that caused the infection. Based on the assessment, the doctor recommended therecommends a future dose of antibiotics.

Home Remedies for Boils

In addition to the treatment mentioned above, you can reduce the severity and pain of the boils by following the home remedies mentioned below:

1. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has strong antibacterial properties. It can help reduce the infection caused by boils. However, tea tree oil should not be applied directly to the skin as it can cause burning effects. Mix a few drops of tea tree oil with coconut or olive oil when applying to the affected region. Do this activity daily until the boils completely disappear.

2. Turmeric

As we know, turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. You can either consume or apply turmeric for boil treatment. While consuming, mix a teaspoon of turmeric in warm milk or water. On the other hand, mix turmeric with water, ginger, or both and make a paste. Apply the paste over the boils at least twice a day.

3. Epsom Salt

Epsom salts also help treat boils as it dries out pus. Just dissolve Epsom salt in warm water and soak a compress in it. Apply the same to the affected area for 20 minutes every day.

4. Castor Oil

Castor oil contains anti-inflammatory ricinoleic acid, making castor oil a great home remedy for boils treatment. Apply a small amount of the oil directly to the boil at least three times a day until the boils disappear.

Prevention of Boils

The following tips will help prevent the occurrence of boils, especially if you have weak immunity.

1. Follow good hygiene:

Wash your hands regularly with soap after touching contaminated areas. Make sure that you are not touching different areas of your body after treating the infection.

2. Keep your wounds covered:

Any minor cut or wound should be kept clean and covered until they are healed.

3. Avoid sharing personal items:

Do not share your towels, sheets, razors, clothes, athletic equipment, and other personal items with people. Staph can spread via infected objects.


Ideally, boils are treatable at home. But get in touch with your doctor if the infection becomes severe and causes other complications. If you happen to acquire other skin infections due to this, get medical attention immediately. Besides, you can contact your insurer to check whether skin infections (such as boils or carbuncles) are covered under your health insurance plan.

You should know that skin abnormality is common, and many people suffer from it. But if you seek the right medical guidance at the right time, you will be able to cure and prevent it from becoming severe over time.

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FAQs on Boils

Majorly, boils are caused because of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that is commonly found on the skin and inside the nose. This causes the formation of boils that are filled with pus over time.

You can get rid of boils fast by doing some of the home remedies like warm water soaks, applying turmeric or by using an anti-bacterial cleanser. However, if the boils on skin are severely infected, you should consult a doctor.

Boils on skin need to be open and you must drain out the pus for them to heal. This usually takes around two weeks of time.

Usually people with immune system disorders, poor hygiene or malnutrition are prone to getting boils. Even if you do not lack anything in your body, you can still get boils.

No, you should never squeeze a boil as it can push the infection deeper into the skin.

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