Boils/Skin Abscess

By Mary Ann Tyson
Colquitt Regional Medical Center Rehabilitation Services

If you have ever developed a bump that was very painful and had infection present, you may have experienced a boil. A boil, also known as a skin abscess, is a localized infection deep in the skin. It generally starts as a reddened, tender area and over time, becomes firm and hard. Eventually the center softens and becomesfilled with pus. Finally, the pus “forms a head” or pustule which can be surgically opened or spontaneously drain out through the surface of the skin.

Anyone can develop a boil, which can occur from many causes. Some can be caused by an ingrown hair and others from a splinter or foreign material that has become lodged in the skin. Any break in the skin, such as a cut or scrape, can develop into an abscess should it become infected with bacteria, especially Staph, which is naturally found on our skin.

Most simple boils can be treated at home. Ideally, treatment should begin as soon as it is noticed since early treatment may prevent later complications. Primary treatment is heat application, which increases circulation to the area allowing the body to fight infection. Next, the boil will form a pustule and be ready to drain. Most small ones will drain on their own. But on occasion with larger boils, which frequently contain several pockets of pus, need to be drained by a physician. Antibiotics will then be needed to help get rid of the remaining bacterial infection.

Always seek medical assistance if you're unsure of the severity of a boil or skin abscess.  Any painful boil, or other wound, that is not rapidly improving should be seen by your healthcare practitioner or you may contact Colquitt Regional Wound Care Center at 229-890-3553.