This article takes a look at a common problem, and in particular focusses on boils treatment.
What Are Boils?
Boils are the infection of a hair follicle (the tissue in the skin that produces hair). A boil is usually a localized infection, meaning an infection in a small surface area of the body. And this infection can become severe and infect nearby organs. In addition, boils can also infect the body as a whole. Therefore, such problems must not be left alone, and treatment must be sought.
Signs and Symptoms Of Boils
The signs and symptoms of boils are the following:
- Reddish in appearance – due to inflammation of the tissues.
- It can also be yellowish in the center – due to presence of pus under the skin.
- There is a protruding lump – due to swollen and infected tissues.
- The lump is tender and very painful to touch and when it gets in contact with clothes.
- Fatigue – due to pain brought about by boils, fatigue and body weakness are often felt.
- Presence of yellowish pus oozing out of the lump.
- Due to infection, fever may be present.
What Causes Boils?
The bacteria Staphylococcus Aureus is the main cause of boils. Included in the list of the illnesses caused by this bacteria are abscess, food poisoning, ulcers, and systemic infection (whole body infection).
This is only seen under the microscope, looking like a cluster of grapes. Staphylococcus Aureus will enter the skin and result in bacterial colonization. The bacteria will grow and multiply, causing infections.
Apart from this harmful bacteria, here are the other factors contributing to the development of boils:
- Poor hygiene– will cause dirt and sweat to remain longer in the body, thus allowing them to block the pores and the sweat glands.
- Environment – living in crowded places like slums, refugee huts and evacuation centers will most likely affect people’s health in that small area. This makes them prone to infections.
- Hair – when there is a defect in a hair follicle, the hair can grow the wrong way, resulting to ingrown hair. This is one of the major factors causing boils. Hairy individuals are also at high risk. Therefore, hair must be trimmed or shaved to prevent ingrown hair.
- Non-intact skin – skin with breaks like a crack or wound will attract bacteria and other microorganisms to enter the body. They will not only create infection, but also develop boils.
- Suppressed or low immune system – people with underlying medical illnesses like Diabetes are prone to have boils. In addition, patients who are undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy are also likely to be affected.
- Direct trauma – trauma can be a hard blow to the body, or can be a constant pressure due to heavy weight or prolonged sitting (several hours sitting on a bus or airplane), or long term bed rest (such as comatose patients). Obese people are more prone to having boils than individuals who have normal weight.
- Usage of oily products (body oils, massage oils, greasy hair products, creams and lotions) – will block the pores, allowing the toxins to stay under the skin and eventually cause infection.
Boils, just like any other illnesses are diagnosed first to be certain of the specific treatments and medications. To confirm a certain medical condition, diagnostic tests are performed. These diagnostic tests are:
- Blood tests such as CBC (Complete Blood Count) – to check for levels of red blood cells (that may indicate anemia – for low levels), and white blood cells (more than 4,500 – 10,000 cells/ml means infection), and to assess for the overall health of the blood.
- Culture of pus – when pus is obtained from the boil, it may be sent to the laboratory to identify the bacteria that causes it. This is to aid the physician in prescribing medications to specifically target the causative bacteria.
More on Boils in this video:
- Warm compress – to reduce pain and heat promotes good blood circulation in the area.
- Weight loss – aim for the ideal weight by exercising regularly and preparing balanced meals. This may be based on the food pyramid. Avoid foods high in fat and salt.
- Proper hygiene not only means bathing daily and regularly changing clothes, but also shaving or trimming hairs to prevent ingrown hair. Do not borrow personal items such as underwear, razors, and towels to prevent spread of diseases. Use of non-greasy products is also recommended.
What can the medical team do for boils treatment?:
- Medicines – antibiotics, pain killers and antipyretic (medicine used for fever). Antibiotics are prescribed once it is confirmed that there is no allergy to the medication. And it will be confirmed through an allergy test. An antibiotic is ordered by the doctor to kill the bacteria and stop their growth and multiplication. This will allow the surrounding tissues to heal and recover. An antipyretic medication is used to normalize body temperature.
- Needle aspiration – the area is cleansed with iodine or alcohol swabs. A sterile needle is inserted in the boil to aspirate and obtain the pus. Once this is drained, gauze may be kept in place to protect the skin.
- Surgery – the skin is cleansed with iodine swabs. Anesthetic (numbing medicine) will be injected. Usually the anesthetic is a local one (injected). However, there are times when a general anesthesia (mask covering the mouth and nose where a gas is released, putting the patient to sleep) may be ordered. An incision is made to obtain the dead tissues affected by boil. Surrounding tissues will also be incised in order to allow the new cells to take over and heal the surgical site.
Boils can be prevented. With proper care for oneself, you are not only protecting yourself from this problem, but from other illnesses as well.
If you have had boils in the past, check yourself regularly for any further infections. If you develop the problem, seek boils treatment sooner rather than later by contacting your doctor.