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Symptoms and Signs of Boil vs. Pimple

Doctor's Notes on Boil vs. Pimple

Boils and pimples are types of skin infections. A boil (abscess) is a pocket of infection in, and under, the skin. A boil may begin as a small infection or area of pus redness in a hair follicle, skin gland, or small open wound. Over several days, pus accumulates, and the boil begins to swell and becomes painful. A pimple (also called whiteheads, blackheads, zits, and acne) is a small, localized infection, usually in a single oil gland in the skin.

Symptoms of boils may include a red bump on the skin that enlarges, fever and chills, drainage of pus from the boil, pain and tenderness, and skin redness. Symptoms of pimples may include small black spots on the skin (blackheads); bumps with small white pustules or papules (whiteheads); large, hard, red sore nodules just under the skin surface (cystic acne); or dark spots or scars on the skin after the pimple has healed.

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.