What are Carbuncles?
A carbuncle is used to describe a group of boils that are connected or an abscess that is bigger than a boil and is usually deeper rooted than a boil. With a carbuncle there will usually be one or more openings in it draining pus onto your skin. The size of it can range from pea size to golf ball size and is filled with dead tissue, pus, and fluid. They will usually form on the nape of your neck, your back, thighs, buttocks, or armpits but can happen anywhere on your body. They form under your skin and can be very painful. The infection is contagious. Once a carbuncle has drained and heal they are most likely to leave a scar if they are deep carbuncles but if they are superficial and have many opening on your skin’s surface they are not as likely to leave a scar that is deep.
An active carbuncle is contagious and the infection can spread to other areas of your body and even to other people who live in the same house by sharing personal items or skin-to-skin contact. It is important to keep the area covered and clean until it has drained and healed so the infection does not spread. Carbuncles can happen to anyone regardless of age, sex, or nationality.
Most carbuncles start out as a single boil, also called furuncles and are tender lumps that are red. Some people may think at first they are a pimple. These grow quickly as they begin to fill with pus until the rupture and begin to drain.
The symptoms can include:
- They are approximately the size of a pea when they begin and dome shaped
- They are red and painful
- The size of them increase over several days
- They develop a yellow-white tip can ooze, crust, or weep until they eventually rupture.
- If not treated they will rupture and discharge a pink or creamy white fluid.
- General sick feeling
- Swelling in the tissues nearby
- Swelling in your lymph nodes especially in the groin, neck, or armpit.
- Before the carbuncle develops there may be itching around the area.
The boil which can turn into carbuncles is usually an infection of a hair follicle but there are times what the actual cause of a carbuncle is. This is one of the reasons that many carbuncles happen on a hairy area of your body. Most carbuncles are caused by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, better known as staph. This particular bacteria is found on the surface of your skin, nasal passages, and throat. They cause the infection by getting into your skin through the hair follicle, a small puncture, or small scrape. There may be times that you get a carbuncle but there is no obvious sign how the bacteria got into your skin.
Other causes may include:
- Rashes like folliculitis
- Friction from shaving or clothing
- Having hair pulled out from sites like where furniture or clothing grabs at your hair.
- Poor hygiene
- Poor nutrition
- Immunity system is weak
A carbuncle is filled with a mixture of white and old blood cells, skin cells that are dead, and bacteria.
The physician can usually diagnosis a carbuncle by looking at the symptoms, the sores themselves, and medical history. The physician may also do a culture of the pus and send it to the lab so they can identity the bacteria that caused the sore and see if it susceptible to antibiotics and to determine the right treatment.
The one thing that a person with a carbuncle should never do is squeeze it because this can spread the infection, severe scarring, and increase the chances of developing complications. Treatment must be handled with great care and will usually require effective medication to remove them. If the carbuncles are caused by the staph bacteria, then you may need to be giving strong antibiotics if the carbuncles are not properly drained.
If you have a carbuncle that does not drain or heal after using home treatments after a few days you should see your physician for a medical evaluation. In addition, if the carbuncle has been there longer than fourteen days, is located on the middle or your face, or spine, comes back frequently, or you have a fever, you should see your physician. Many times if you have a carbuncle, because they are a group of boils, you will have to see your doctor to have it treated. When you visit your physician they will:
- Cut and drain the carbuncle.
- They will wash the area afterwards with a sterile solution to make sure that all the push has been taken out.
Usually once it has been drained completely no antibiotics are needed excepted in cases like:
- The drainage is not complete and MRSA is involved
- If there is infection in the surrounding soft tissue. This is called celluitis
- If your immune system is weak
- If the infection has spread to other parts of your body
Most carbuncles will heal within a three weeks after it has been treated. Sometimes the physician will prescribe antibacterial soap to use on the area. You should also make sure that you are practicing proper hygiene to prevent it from spreading.
- You should always make sure that you are washing your hands after touch it.
- Never share or re-use towels or washcloths that have touched the carbuncle.
- Make sure that you are washing your sheets, washcloths, towels, and any other items that have come in contact with the carbuncle in very hot water.
- Change the bandages often and throw them away in a bag that you can close tightly.
- Apply warm compresses several times a day to help promote drainage and healing or soak in warm water for twenty minutes.
- Cover it with a dry, clean cloth and apply a hot water bottle or heating pad set on low on top for twenty minutes several times during the day.
- Wash and cover with a sterile bandage can help prevent the infection from spreading and may help with the drainage and healing.
- Taking over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen to help with the pain
- Using a garlic and onion paste to bring it to a head and drawing out the pus.
- Taking a hot shower and letting the water run over the carbuncle.
Images, Photos and Pictures of Carbuncle…