Boils-Symptoms, Cause and home remedies for treatment

A furuncle, commonly known as a boil, is a skin infection caused by staphylococcus aureus bacteria. As a result of the buildup of pus and dead cells, the infected area becomes swollen and painful. If several boils appear in a cluster, it is known as a carbuncle and is a more serious type of an infection.
Boils  Picture
Boils are skin infections that originate in hair follicles or in oil glands. At first, the area will become red and tender; thereafter, it may become either hard and firm or even tenderer. After four to seven days, it turns white because of the pus that collects under the skin. The white blood cells collect at the center of the boil to eradicate the infection. This collection of white blood cells, bacteria, and proteins is what pus is. A boil is also referred to as a skin abscess. An abscess is a condition wherein the infection spreads deeper into the tissues of the skin.
Boils can occur all over the body. However, the most common places for boils to appear are on the legs, armpits, face, neck, buttocks, and shoulders. Boils that occur on the eyelid are called stys.

Symptoms of Boils

Boils present themselves as one or more tender red spots, lumps, or pustules. The size of boils can vary greatly from some being small like a pea, to as large as a golf ball. A boil starts as a painful lump that is hard and red. Over the next few days, it becomes softer, larger, and more painful. A pocket of pus forms on the head of the boil and is indicative of an acute infection. The common symptoms for boils include:
  • Severe pain when it fills with pus
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Skin redness around the boil
  • Itchiness before the eruption of boils
  • More boils may appear around the original one
  • Skin lesions may be seen
  • Boils may be in the form of open sores or closed, domed nodules
  • Localized swelling, redness and in durations may occur
  • Affected area will be tender and warm to touch
A diagnosis can be made, based on the appearance of the boils. Further diagnosis involves examining the fluid from the lesion to find the cause of the infection.

Types of Boils

Besides furuncles, there are other types of boils.
  • Cystic Acne: Clogged and infected oil ducts cause acne. It affects deeper skin tissues and is most common on the face.
  • Hidradenitis Suppurativa: This is a condition when multiple abscesses form in the armpits and groin area. Local inflammation of the sweat glands causes hidradenitis suppurativa.
  • Pilonidal Cyst: This normally forms in the crease of the buttocks. Prolonged sitting due to long travel or work causes pilonidal cysts.

Causes of Boils

The prime cause for boils is a type of bacteria known as staphylococcus aureus (staph bacteria). It is harmless while it remains on the surface of the skin. However, when the bacteria enter deep into the hair follicles and tissues through damaged hair follicles, it can cause skin infections such as boils. Other factors related to boils are as follows:
  • Heat
  • Splinters or any foreign materials lodged in the skin
  • Certain health conditions such as diabetes
  • Low immunity
  • Anemia and iron deficiency
  • Poor hygiene
  • Exposure to harsh chemicals
  • Ingrown hair
  • Cuts or scrape in the body can develop into boils when infected with bacteria.
  • Infected sweat glands also cause boils.

Remedies for Boils

Boils may often heal in less than two weeks on their own. Before healing, they will often open and drain themselves. However, if they are large, they need to be drained by a health care provider. Treatment for simple boils can be done at home itself. However, it is important to begin the treatment as soon as a boil is noticed. Or else, it may lead to complications.
Heat application is the first line of treatment as it increases blood circulation to the infected areas. Increase in blood circulation facilitates the immune response to fight off the bacteria better by bringing in antibodies and white cells to the infected area.
Opening the area to drain pus can be done only after the boil forms a head. The person who has a boil will experience relief immediately after the boil is drained. It is best not to drain boils yourself at home, as this could lead to infection. Visit a doctor for proper draining of boils using sterilized equipment. Small boils such as those around the hair often drain their own.

Home Treatment

As mentioned earlier, the best treatment for most boil is heat application. Heat can reduce inflammation and discomfort and speed up the healing process. A warm, moist compress can be made by soaking a washcloth in warm water and applying it on the boil several times a day.
When the boil begins to drain, you will need to clean it with antibacterial soap. To ensure removal of all pus from the boil, clean the area using a warm compress. Never squeeze or cut open the boil or pop it with a needle as this will only worsen the infection.
Home remedies for boils include:
  • Turmeric has anti-inflammatory and blood purifying properties and consuming turmeric and/or applying turmeric paste on the boil will help cure the boil.
  • Garlic paste helps speed up the healing process.
  • Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic and can be used in the treatment of boils.
  • Castor oil can draw out the pus and help to get rid of the boil quickly.


  • Using mild antibacterial soap and washing your skin regularly.
  • Cuts and wounds should be covered with a sterile bandage until they heal.
  • Maintain good personal hygiene to prevent boils from recurring.
  • Obesity can facilitate the occurrence of boils as the bacteria thrive in the folds of the skin. Losing weight helps.
  • Heavy perspiration and skin chafing activities should be avoided as they tend to aggravate the problem.


The most common complications of boils are
  • Permanent scarring
  • Abscess of the skin
  • Spinal cord infections
  • Brain infections
  • Endocarditis
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Sepsis
  • Spread of infection to other parts of the body or skin surfaces

Medical Treatment

Antibiotic treatment is necessary to cure large or recurring boils. Topical antiseptics such as povidone iodine cream can be applied to the boils. Boils should be covered with gauze to avoid further infections. Oral antibiotics may be prescribed to cure the boil as well. 

If the boils fail to clear up, a microbiological culture of the swab is necessary. Follow up is very necessary, whether the boil is drained at home or is lanced by a doctor. Until the wound heals, it is necessary to clean the infected area two to three times daily. After cleaning, apply antibiotic ointment, covering the wound with a bandage. If it gets infected again, you should consult the doctor immediately.

Diet for Boils

The efficacy of dietary measures to treat or control boils is not really supported by research, but some natural health enthusiasts claim that detox diets can help. This can be achieved by eating a light diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Drinking plenty of water (eight to ten glasses a day) and exercising regularly helps to get rid of toxins faster. Bitter gourd juice has the ability to clean the system. Drinking bitter gourd juice in the morning is recommended. Additionally, consuming iron tablets helps to reduce infection, and 1000 mg of vitamin C a day helps to improve deficient eutrophil function.

Suggestion for Boils

Maintaining good hygiene, following a healthy diet, and exercising regularly helps maintain optimum health and boosts immunity. This could help to avoid boils completely. If, however, you do get a boil, check with a doctor for suitable treatment options.

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