Carbuncle: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Carbuncle identified as bacterial infections that form a swollen, red, painful group of boils (or furuncle) below the skin at the level of a hair follicle. A boil is an infection in the hair follicle that has a tiny collection of pus (know as abscess) below the skin. (1)

A carbuncle is a group of boils that have several “puss heads.” They are tender and painful, leading to a serious infection that may leave a scar. A carbuncle is also known as a staph infection. (2)

Distinguishing a carbuncle from other skin problems

The earliest obvious symptom of a carbuncle is a red and irritated ball under the skin. It can hurt when you touch it. It can vary between the size of a lens and a medium-sized mushroom.

Lump size increases within days as it fills up rapidly with pus. It finally develops a yellow-white or “head” point that will break and drain the pus. There may also be swelling in surrounding areas.

Additional symptoms include the following:

  • bodily aches
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • oozing
  • itching just before the lump appears

Pus usually occurs during the formation of carbuncle in first day.

What are the causes of a carbuncle?

A carbuncle typically develops as the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria enter your hair follicles. They are also called “staphylococcus”. Abrasions and other skin damage allow bacteria to enter your body easily and cause infection. The result may be boils or carbuncle (a group of boils) full of liquid and pus. (1)

Wet parts of your body are especially sensitive to this infection because bacteria develop in these areas. carbuncle are typically found behind the neck, shoulders or thigh. They can also occur on the face, neck, armpits or buttocks, or on any area of sweating or rubbing.

What are the risk factors for developing a carbuncle?

Coming into close contact with a person who has a carbuncle increases the chances of you developing one. Factors that also increase the risk of carbuncle development include:

  • poor hygiene
  • diabetes
  • dermatitis
  • kidney disease
  • liver disease
  • Weak immune system

How is a carbuncle diagnosed?

Your physician may generally diagnose carbuncle when looking at your skin. You can also take a sample of pus for laboratory analysis.

It is important to maintain a record of how long you have had the carbuncle. Talk to your doctor about whether it lasted more than two weeks. You may also want to mention if you have had the same symptoms in the past.

If you keep growing carbuncle, it can be a sign of other health problems, like diabetes. Your physician may want to perform urine or blood tests to verify your overall health.

How is a carbuncle treated?

There are a number of treatments available for a carbuncle. Firstly, it is important to assess your carbuncle:

  • larger than 2 inches (5 cm)?
  • Around the nose or the eyes?
  • near the spine?
  • worsened rapidly?
  • Remained unhealed for a couple of weeks?

If you said yes to any of these questions, you should seek medical attention. Your infection may result in more serious conditions.

Medical treatment

Your physician may use one or more of the follow medical procedures to treat your carbuncle:

  • Surgery
  • Antibiotics
  • Pain relievers
  • Antibacterial soaps

You should never attempt to empty a carbuncle on your own. You’ll probably spread the infection. You might as well infect your blood circulation.

Home care

To alleviate pain, accelerate recovery and reduce the risk of spreading infection:

  • Put a clean, warm and damp cloth on your carbuncle several times during the day. Leave on for a 15-minute period. This way carbuncle drain faster.
  • Make sure your skin is clean with antibacterial soap.
  • Change your bandages frequently if you have had a surgical procedure.
  • Wash your hands once you have touched your carbuncle.

What is the long term outlook?

Carbuncles normally respond well to medical treatments. In few cases, they can recover without medical attention.

Your first infection may lead to repeated infections later. Consult your physician if it occurs. This may be an indication of a more serious health condition.

Preventing a carbuncle

Good hygiene minimizes the risk of developing carbuncle. Here are some prevention tips:

  • Avoid sharing personal items like clothes, towels, and other personal items
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and before eating and once you have used the bathroom.
  • Shower many times to keep your skin bacteria-free.
  • Do not squeeze or rub the broken skin.
  • Wash garments, sheets and towels regularly in hot water.

Consult your doctor if you believe you have a chronic disease or other skin problems that can cause fractures to your skin.

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