What Are Boils And What Causes Them

Infected lumps on the skin, boils can be rather painful. These infections are sometimes called skin abscesses or furuncles. In addition to experiencing discomfort, many people feel self-conscious if their boils are in visible places. Hard, red bumps that soften and turn white as they fill with pus, boils can also leave scars behind. Understanding what boils are and what causes them may be of help in preventing them.

What Are Boils

boil also called furuncle

Boil or furuncle.

Boils are skin infections that originate in oil glands or hair follicles. They form painful lumps that swell as they fill with pus and dead tissue. The bacteria most frequently responsible for the infections is called staphylococcus aureus, but other types of bacteria and fungi can also result in boils. When multiple boils emerge in a cluster to develop a single abscess, this is called a carbuncle. When boils are recurring, that condition is known as chronic furunculosis.

Boils are a somewhat more pervasive infection of hair follicles than folliculitis. In terms of pathology, medical experts might refer to boils as perifollicular abscesses. The lesions most often occur on the buttocks, thighs, armpits, shoulders, face and neck. A boil that has formed on an eyelid is called a stye. The lesions occur in these areas that tend to be subject to some sort of friction.

Formation of Boils

Boils are common in young adults, but they rarely occur before puberty. They are also more common in males than they are in females. As a boil forms, it typically acquires a lump that is somewhat wavy before it subsequently ruptures and drains.

Causes of Boils

After asking what are boils, the next logical question is what causes them. Sometimes, the bacteria will invade the hair follicle or oil gland through a cut or insect bite that has broken the skin. Boils can also be the result of an infected ingrown hair or a clogged sweat gland caused by acne. A splinter or other small object that becomes lodged in the skin can also lead to a boil. Several other conditions can make a person further susceptible to developing these infections.

• Diabetes
• Immune system issues
• Obesity
• Malnutrition
• Poor hygiene
• Antibiotic resistance

It is not unusual for skin conditions, boils included, to be one of the first signs of type 2 diabetes. Damage to blood vessels occurs when high glucose levels reduce blood flow to the skin. This alters collagen in the skin, and it inhibits the skin’s ability to heal. Medications that lower glucose levels can also increase the risk of skin conditions in diabetics. For these reasons, it is important for people with diabetes to monitor their skin for changes, particularly around insulin injection sites.

People who have issues with immune system function or who take immunosuppressive medications are also at risk for developing boils. A weakened immune system leaves a person susceptible to many kinds of infections, including those involving the skin. Obesity can lead to hidradenitis suppurativa, a condition that creates inflammation of sweat glands and a risk of developing boils.

Malnutrition is a risk factor because of the skin’s need for nutrients to defend against infections. Poor personal hygiene constitutes a risk of skin conditions such as boils because the lack of cleanliness creates an optimal environment for bacteria to thrive. Resistance to antibiotics can create further risk of skin issues that include boils. People with a history of illnesses that have required antibiotics are vulnerable to developing a resistance.

What Are Boils Prevention Measures

Understanding potential causes is beneficial in preventing boils. Cleanliness, for example, is an important means of prevention because of the risks from poor hygiene. Other preventive measures include washing with antibacterial soap, monitoring the skin and remaining aware of applicable health concerns.