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Furuncle: All You Need To Know

Medically reviewed by Martha Juco, MD · Aesthetics

Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Oct 10, 2022

    Furuncle: All You Need To Know

    When bacteria enters the hair follicle and causes infection and inflammation, a furuncle or boil may develop. This is a pus-filled bump that appears on your skin. A collection of boils is called a carbuncle. 

    The face, the back of the neck, armpits, thighs, and buttocks are the areas most likely to be affected by boils (furuncles), which typically begin as reddish or purplish, tender bumps that quickly fill with pus and grow larger and more painful until they rupture and drain. You can usually treat a single boil at home, but avoid poking or squeezing it as this could spread the infection.

    Furuncle Signs

    Boils can arise anywhere on your body, but they are most common in hair-bearing areas where you’re more likely to perspire or encounter friction. A boil typically has the following signs and symptoms:

    • A painful, red bump that can grow to be more than 2 inches (5 centimeters) in diameter
    • Reddish or purplish, swollen skin around the bump
    • An increase in size over a few days as it fills with pus
    • Development of a yellow-white tip that eventually ruptures, which allows the pus to drain out.

    A carbuncle is a collection of connected boils that causes a deeper, more severe infection and is more likely to leave a scar than a single boil. 

    Why Do Furuncles Form?

    Boils occasionally appear at sites where the skin has been broken due to a small injury or an insect bite, which allows the bacteria to enter. The majority of boils are brought on by staphylococcus aureus. 

    Anyone can develop boils or carbuncles, but the following circumstances can make you more likely to get them:

    • You’re more likely to contract an illness if you have close contact with someone who has a staph infection.
    • Diabetes is a condition that can make it harder for your body to fight infections, including bacterial skin infections.
    • Skin diseases like eczema and acne increase your risk of developing boils and carbuncles.
    • If your immune system is weakened for any reason, you are more prone to developing boils and carbuncles.


    Sometimes, bacteria from a boil or carbuncle may enter your bloodstream and spread to other areas of your body. This condition is known as blood poisoning (sepsis), and it can result in infections that spread deep inside your body, including endocarditis and bone infections (osteomyelitis).

    These are life-threatening conditions. Skin infections such as furuncles and carbuncles must be treated prudently to avoid these complications.

    Do Furuncles Spread?

    Technically speaking, boils cannot spread. It is the staphylococcus aureus (bacteria) infection that does, causing more boils to spread to other parts of your body. It can also be passed on to others.  

    Dealing with Furuncles

    In order to release the pus and fluid from a boil or carbuncle, you should never squeeze it or prick it with a pin or other sharp object. If you do, you risk spreading the infection to other areas of your skin. If you leave a boil alone, it will eventually break and drain on its own. However, in some circumstances, you may need your doctor’s assistance. Once the fluid and pus have been removed, the boil or carbuncle will heal. Always consult your doctor regarding proper treatment of a boil to avoid any complications. 

    You can take the following actions if you have a boil:

  • You should use a damp washcloth as a warm, moist compress. This will hasten healing and lessen some of the discomfort and pressure you’re feeling.
  • Consult a medical professional if the boil returns or persists, or if it is on your face or spine.
  • Patients with diabetes or conditions that impact the immune system should visit a doctor for the treatment of the boil,
  • If you have a fever or other dangerous symptoms in addition to the boil, contact your doctor.
  • Problems Caused by Furuncles

    Boils and carbuncles can recur in the same place or never completely go away in some people (especially those with weakened immune systems). Recurrent boils may signal the presence of the potentially fatal methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection, and boils can result in more serious and dangerous medical disorders in a small percentage of cases. For any concerns, consult your doctor immediately. 

    The bacteria that causes furuncles can also do the following:

    • Penetrate your bloodstream, triggering a serious reaction in your body (sepsis)
    • Go into the brain and lead to a potentially fatal disease like meningitis
    • Infect the skin and the skin’s surface area (cellulitis)
    • Spread to the heart, bones, spinal cord, and other organs, resulting in fatal infection

    Prevention of Furuncles

    Even persons in generally good health can get boils or carbuncles. However, you can prevent boils by avoiding close contact with persons who have staph infections, boils, or carbuncles. To help prevent the transmission of bacteria, avoid sharing or reusing washcloths, towels, and blankets, and routinely wash your hands with antibacterial soaps and gels.

    Key Takeaway

    Boils are painful and unsightly, but they rarely cause serious health problems. Many boils heal with home treatments like warm compresses and over-the-counter pain relievers. But it’s a good idea to call your doctor if you have signs of a boil, especially if it’s painful. They can monitor your condition to ensure the infection doesn’t spread or worsen. To reduce your risk of developing a boil, keep your hands clean and maintain good overall health.

    Learn more about Skin Issues here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Martha Juco, MD


    Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Oct 10, 2022

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