Boils are an inflamed swelling, filled with pus which starts deep within the skin. Boils are usually caused by a hair follicle becoming infected and boils generally start as a tender area of skin with a reddening appearance.
It may also occur due to extensive usage of allergic creams or skin ointments.
The hair follicle becomes infected by the bacteria Staphylococcus Aureus, this bacteria is fairly common, infact it is carried on the skin or in the nasal passages of around one third of the population.
Boils can be very tender and painful and if they are recurrent they can cause some scaring which may even be permanent.
As time passes the affected area will grow firmer, harder and become more tender. Your body will try to fight the infection by by sending white blood cells from the bloodstream to the boil, this will cause the center of the boil to soften and fill with pus. The pus is the combination of the white blood cells, proteins and bacteria and it will eventually form a head on the boil. This is called the pustule.
Once the "head" has formed on the boil, the pus may drain out through the surface of the skin, or in some cases it will drain through a small incision made by a medical professional.
Types of Boils
There are a number of different types of boils, these develop on different parts of the body and have different formations.
These are caused by the infection Staphylococcus Aurues in a hair follicle (the root of a hair). Furuncles can occur on any part of the body but are most commonly found on your neck, face, armpits, buttocks and thighs. Furuncles are also sometimes associated with chills and fevers.
These are a cluster or group of Furuncles. Carbuncles are most commonly found on the back of the neck, the shoulders, hips and thighs. They are usually the result of a deeper infection and as such tend to last longer than Furuncles. You may need to seek medical advice if you have carbuncles, as you may need to be treated with an anti-biotic to kill the infection.
These are boils that form between the buttocks and are sometimes called Rectal Boils. Pilondial Cysts are usually recurrent, they can make walking and sitting very painful and can drain spontaneously. They often form after being seated for prolonged periods, such as during a long journey.
These boils are caused by inflamed sweat glands becoming infected. They usually occur under the arms and around the groin area and can be very painful. In extreme cases the affected sweat glands can be removed surgically.
These are boils caused by excessive oil production in the skin which in turn causes bacteria and dirt to become trapped under the skin, blocking hair follicles. Cystic Acne is most commonly found on the face and it differs from Common Acne in that the infection is much deeper in the skin.
Whichever type of boil you have, they can be distressing, painful and can really make you feel at a low ebb.
Signs & Symptoms of Boils
A small hard swelling (abscess) containing pus forms on the face, neck, scalp, armpit or buttock. The swelling becomes itchy, painful to the touch, and inflamed. Swellings become visible on the lymph nodes on the neck, or in the armpit or groin.
Pain gets worse as it fills with pus and dead tissue. Pain lessens when the boil drains. A boil may drain on its own. More often, the boil needs to be opened to drain.
The main symptoms of a boil include:
- A bump about the size of a pea, but may be as large as a golf ball pustules
- White or yellow center
- Spread to other skin areas or joining with other boils
- Quick growth
- Weeping, oozing, or crusting
Other symptoms may include:
- General ill-feeling
- Itching before the boil develops
- Skin redness around the boil
Complications of Boils
The main complication associated with boils is tissue scarring. However, if they are not treated properly the infection can spread to other areas of the skin, as well as into the blood stream. In this case there may be serious consequences.
What Causes Boils?
Boils are caused by blockage of the skin pores or deep in the hair follicles, usually due to poor hygienic habits. This provides a welcomed environment for bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, to thrive, invade tissues and cause infections.
Risk factors for the development of boils include chronic illness conditions and compromised Immunity as in diabetes. This makes it more difficult for the body to fight infection, making it susceptible to developing boils.
Stress, increases heat in the body and this can increase the risk of developing boils.
Boils are associated with qualities of excessive heat which makes the skin susceptible to infection and results in painful inflammation. Boils are more common in individuals with a sanguinous/bilious temperamental combination, where the quality of heat is dominant.
Reasons of Boils Occurrence
The main cause of skin boils is generally due to an infection of a hair follicle, which can occur for a number of different reasons.
Contributing Causes of Boils
- An ingrown hair
- A splinter or other piece of foreign material that has penetrated the skin
- Blocked sweat glands that become infected
- Chafing clothes
- Poor hygiene
- A lowered immune system
- Malnutrition (Vitamin A or E deficiency in particular)
Where do Boils Appear?
Boils can occur anywhere on the skin, although they tend to develop on the face, neck, armpits, buttocks, or thighs. They also occur most frequently in areas containing hair and/or sweat glands, or in areas where chafing or recurrent friction occurs-- thus a major cause of skin boils. In some cases, boils can occur in interconnected clusters called carbuncles. In severe cases, they can develop into abscesses.
While anyone can develop boils and carbuncles, people who have diabetes, a suppressed immune system, poor hygiene, acne, or other skin problems are at a higher risk.
Most boils can be adequately treated at home, and usually run their course and heal without medical attention. However, in some cases, you may need to visit a general health practitioner to avoid complications. Your doctor will simply examine the affected area to confirm diagnosis, and generally no other diagnostic tests are necessary. Skin boil treatment is generally simple and can be managed at home.
Lifestyle Factors to Treat Boils
Food and Drink Regime for Boils
- Eat mostly Cold & Moist foods - such as carrots, cucumber, lettuce, and rice, followed by Cold & Dry foods - like citrus fruit, yogurt, fish and beans.
- Eat less of Hot & Dry foods – such as eggs, chickpeas, onion and chili, and the least amount of Hot & Moist foods – like sugar, white flour products, cheese, and mutton.
- Drink at least two litres of water daily.
- Select a high fibre diet of fruit and vegetables to encourage regular bowel movements.
- Eat plenty of raw/steamed vegetables and fruits.
- Avoid heavily spiced, fried foods, as well as sugary and refined foods.
- Avoid cashew nuts, pecan nuts, peanuts, eggs, cheese, pickles, processed meats and chocolates.
- Partake in a cleansing fast monthly to rid the body of accumulated toxins.
- Drink rooibos tea with lemon juice, instead of milky tea and coffee.
Other Lifestyle Factors for boils
- Clean the skin around the boils with hydrogen peroxide (10 vols).
- Repeated attacks of boils can be prevented by cleansing the skin area regularly with antiseptic liquid.
- After the boil has drained, apply a mixture of blackseed honey to prevent further infection and promote healing.
- Shower instead of bathing. This reduces the chance of the boils spreading to other parts of the body.
- When dealing with boils, keep the hands scrupulously clean.
- Adhere to strict hygienic measures if you are involved in food handling and preparation.
- Reduce stress by performing slow and deep breathing exercises daily.
What to do When Boils are for Longer Period?
- Go to the doctor immediately if a boil is near the eye.
- Check and clean boils every day.
- Soak the boil in a warm bath or put a towel soaked in warm water on the boil for 20 minutes.
- If boil bursts, wipe away pus, fluid or blood with clean cotton wool or a cloth soaked in water and antiseptic.
- Wash cloths and towels after each use.
- Make sure your child wears clean clothes every day.
- Wash your hands before and after touching the boil.
- Check the rest of the family for boils.
Natural Treatment of Boils
Herbal Remedies Medication
- Apply a hot compress to the affected area. This will encourage a head to form on the boil, and help it to drain.
- Cover the boil with a thin cloth envelope containing a slice of onion or tomato, or a crushed garlic clove, or a used cold teabag.
Prevention of Boils Infection
The following may help prevent the spread of infection:
- Antibacterial soaps
- Antiseptic (germ-killing) washes
- Keeping clean (such as thorough hand washing)