Font Size


Boils Overview

A boil is a skin infection that starts in a hair follicle or oil gland. At first, the skin turns red in the area of the infection, and a tender lump develops. After four to seven days, the lump starts turning white as pus collects under the skin. If the infection spreads to the deeper tissues of the skin, then it becomes an abscess.

  • The most common places for boils to appear are on the face, neck, armpits, shoulders, and buttocks. When one forms on the eyelid, it is called a sty.
  • If several boils appear in a group, this is a more serious type of infection called a carbuncle.

Causes of Boils

Patient Comments

Boils are usually caused by a bacteria called Staphylococcus (staph). Most staph infections develop into abscesses and can become serious very quickly. This germ can be present on normal skin and enters the body through tiny breaks in the skin or by traveling down a hair to the follicle.

Certain health problems make people more susceptible to skin infections such as boils. Examples are

  • diabetes,
  • problems with the immune system,
  • poor nutrition,
  • poor hygiene, and
  • exposure to harsh chemicals that irritate the skin.

Symptoms of Boils

A boil starts as a hard, red, painful lump usually less than an inch in size. Over the next few days, the lump becomes softer, larger, and more painful. Soon a pocket of pus forms on the top of the boil. Signs of a severe infection are

  • the skin around the boil becomes red, painful, and swollen;
  • more boils may appear around the original one;
  • a fever develops; and
  • the lymph nodes become swollen.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/8/2014
Medical Author:

Must Read Articles Related to Boils

Abscess An abscess is has several causes and can appear on many parts of the body, such as the dental, vaginal, and rectal areas. In general, home remedies or cures are...learn more >>
Antibiotics Antibiotics are prescribed to individuals to cure disease by killing bacteria. There are over 100 antibiotics. The main classes of antibiotics include penicilli...learn more >>
Staph Infection
Staphylococcus Staphylococcus is a type of bacteria that causes infection (often called a "Staph infection"). Staphylococcus can cause infections in almost any organ system in...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Boils:

Boils - Experience

Did you have any complications from your boils? Please describe your experience with boils.

Boils - Causes

What caused your boils?

Boils - Effective Treatments

What kinds of treatments have been effective for your boils?

Medical Dictionary