A boil is an infection of the hair follicle that develops under the skin. When multiple boils develop this is known as a carbuncle. In a carbuncle, this cluster of boils is interconnected under the skin and can lead to pain, inflammation, and redness. This infection most often develops on areas of the body that contain hair such as the neck, back, or armpits, but can also develop on the thighs and groin. Here’s what you should know about this condition, as well as how a dermatologist might treat this infection.
What causes a carbuncle?
Most of the time, bacteria known as staphylococcus aureus are to blame for carbuncles. This bacteria is already present on the skin, but can easily get into a hair follicle through a cut or opening. Since a carbuncle is the result of a bacterial infection, the infection can be spread to others by sharing items such as towels or through skin-to-skin contact. It’s important to cover the area and keep it clean so that it heals properly.
Who is at risk for carbuncles?
There are many risk factors that can cause someone to be prone to carbuncles. These risk factors include:
- Chronic skin problems
- Older age
- Poor hygiene
- Liver disease
- A weakened immune system
Of course, people don’t have to have these risk factors to develop this skin infection. Many health individuals deal with this issue too. For example, those in community settings such as a dorm room may be more at risk for spreading this infection.
How should I treat a carbuncle?
It is important that you do not pick at or squeeze the bump, as this can spread the infection even further or lead to scarring. Apply warm compresses to the area several times a day. Make sure to keep the area clean (wash with soap and water) and cover the area. Since heat can help to facilitate natural drainage, you may want to use a heating pad on the area for up 20 minutes at a time.
Should I see a dermatologist?
Since there are many infections and conditions that can lead to painful bumps and growths, it’s important that you see a dermatologist if you’ve never been diagnosed with a carbuncle before. If the carbuncle doesn’t drain after a few days or if it’s very painful or in a sensitive area such as the nose or eyes, it’s important that you see your dermatologist right away so they can drain it and properly treat it.
If you are dealing with any new or worsening bumps or growths on the skin that have you concerned, know that a dermatologist is going to be the best specialist to turn to for diagnosis and treatment. When in doubt, call your dermatologist to schedule an evaluation.