SymptomsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Boils can occur anywhere on your skin, but appear mainly on your face, neck, armpits, buttocks or thighs — hair-bearing areas where you're most likely to sweat or experience friction. Signs and symptoms of a boil usually include:
- A painful, red bump that starts out about the size of a pea
- Red, swollen skin around the bump
- An increase in the size of the bump over a few days as it fills with pus (can sometimes reach the size of a golf ball)
- Development of a yellow-white tip that eventually ruptures and allows the pus to drain out.
Once the boil drains, the pain usually subsides. Small boils usually heal without scarring, but a large boil may leave a scar.
A carbuncle is a cluster of boils that often occurs on the back of the neck, shoulders or thighs. Carbuncles:
- Cause a deeper and more severe infection than single boils do
- Develop and heal more slowly than single boils do
- Are likely to leave a scar
Signs and symptoms that may accompany carbuncles include:
- Feeling unwell in general
When to see a doctor
You usually can care for a single, small boil yourself. But see your doctor if you have:
- A boil on your face or spine
- A boil that worsens rapidly or is extremely painful
- Boils that are very large, haven't healed in two weeks or are accompanied by a fever
- Frequent boils
- A condition that suppresses your immune system, such as an organ transplant, corticosteroid use or an HIV infection
- Recently been hospitalized
Children and older adults who develop one or more boils also should receive medical care.
- Habif TP. Furuncles and carbuncles. In Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Edinburgh; New York, N.Y.: Mosby Elsevier; 2009. http://www.mdconsult.com/book/player/book.do?method=display&type=bookPage&decorator=header&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-7234-3541-9..00018-3--s0295&uniq=215950578&isbn=978-0-7234-3541-9&sid=1042832232. Accessed Aug. 23, 2010.
- Baddour LM. Skin abscesses, furuncles, and carbuncles. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Aug. 23, 2010.
- Rakel RE. Furuncles and carbuncles. In: Rakel RE. Textbook of Family Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2007. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/215950578-5/1042832232/1481/236.html#4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-2467-5..50024-5--cesec94_966. Accessed Aug. 23, 2010.
- Tree tea oil. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com/(S(iyok1uyiw1fl112ek3ax2lu2))/nd/Search.aspx?cs=MAYO&s=ND&pt=100&id=113&fs=ND&searchid=11129198. Accessed Aug. 23, 2010.
- Personal prevention of MRSA skin infections. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/mrsa/prevent/personal.html. Accessed Aug. 23, 2010.
- Archer GL. Staphylococcal infections. In: Goldman L, et al. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/130655031-2/826443940/1492/1112.html#4-u1. Accessed Aug. 23, 2010.