Definition

What is a carbuncle?

A carbuncle is an infection of the skin that may be filled with pus. The infection usually occurs deep within your skin and involves the hair follicles. It’s also called a staph skin infection.

Carbunculosis is the name given to more than one carbuncle. This condition can cause permanent skin scarring. It can easily infect other parts of your body and other people.

How common are carbuncles?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of carbuncles?

The most obvious symptom of a carbuncle is a red, irritated lump under your skin. Touching it may be painful. It can range from the size of a lentil to the size of a medium-sized mushroom. The lump quickly becomes filled with pus. Nearby areas may also experience swelling. Other symptoms may include:

  • Itching before the lump appears
  • Bodily aches
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Skin crustiness or oozing

Pus usually appears within one day of carbuncle formation.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You usually can care for a single, small boil yourself. But see your doctor if you have more than one boil at a time or if a boil:

  • Occurs on your face
  • Worsens rapidly or is extremely painful
  • Causes a fever
  • Is more than 2 inches (5 centimeters) across
  • Hasn’t healed in two weeks
  • Recurs

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes carbuncles?

A carbuncle usually develops when Staphylococcus aureus bacteria enter your hair follicles. This bacteria is also referred to as “staph.” Scrapes and other broken skin make it easy for bacteria to enter your body and cause an infection. This can result in a number of boils filled with fluid and pus that contain dead tissue.

The moist parts of your body are particularly susceptible to this infection because bacteria thrive in these areas. This is especially the case in the:

  • Nose
  • Mouth
  • Groin
  • Thighs
  • Armpits

Risk factors

What increases my risk for carbuncles?

There are many risk factors for carbuncles, such as:

  • Poor hygiene
  • Diabetes
  • A weak immune system
  • Dermatitis
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Shaving and other activities that break the skin

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How are carbuncles diagnosed?

Your doctor can usually diagnose a carbuncle by looking at your skin. A pus sample may also be taken for lab analysis.

It’s important to keep track of how long you’ve had the carbuncle. Tell your doctor if it’s lasted longer than two weeks. You should also mention if you’ve had the same symptoms before.

If you keep developing carbuncles, it may be a sign of other health issues, such as diabetes. Your doctor may want to run urine or blood tests to check your overall health.

How are carbuncles treated?

The following medical treatments can be used for a carbuncle:

  • Antibiotics are sometimes needed for treatment. They’re either taken orally or rubbed on your skin.
  • Pain relievers can be used if necessary. Normally over-the-counter medications are enough.
  • Antibacterial soaps may be suggested as part of your daily regimen.
  • Surgeries may be used to address some deep or large carbuncles. A carbuncle may be drained with a scalpel or needle.

You should never try to drain a carbuncle yourself. There’s a risk that you’ll spread the infection. You could also end up infecting your bloodstream.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage carbuncles?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with carbuncles:

  • Place a clean, warm, moist cloth on your carbuncle several times a day. Leave it on for 15 minutes. This will help it drain faster.
  • Keep your skin clean with antibacterial soap.
  • Change your bandages often if you’ve had surgery.
  • Wash your hands after touching a carbuncle.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: July 13, 2017 | Last Modified: July 13, 2017

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