Difference Between Boil and Carbuncle

If you have ever experienced a boil or a carbuncle on any part of your body, you know how painful it can be. However, there are many who cannot differentiate between a boil and a carbuncle and this article is meant to clear the doubts from the minds of people who can’t appreciate differences between these two skin diseases. This is because of similarities between the symptoms of the two.

Our skin is covered with hair follicles and often bacteria find refuge around these hair follicles. When the area where hair follicles live gets infested with bacteria, it is common to have an irritated skin and an infection can result. Boils and carbuncles are infections caused by these bacteria. The major difference between a boil and a carbuncle is that whereas a boil is a single abscess inside the skin within a hair follicle, a carbuncle occurs when several boils a lumped together involving a few hair follicles. So while a boil is a tiny lump that is red in color, making the skin tender around it, the infection when it spreads and involves several hair follicles, it becomes a carbuncle.

A boil disappears on its own without any treatment and does not leave any scars. It has a small opening that fills with pus and when this pus discharges, the boil diminishes in size and gradually disappears. However, a carbuncle, as it involves several boils, has more than a single opening. It covers a larger area of skin and is much more painful than a boil. These boils fill up with pus which when drained; often leave scars on the body.

Boils and carbuncles occur on places with lots of hair follicles such as back of the neck, arms, legs, armpits, thighs and shoulders. It is not necessary that a boil may develop into a carbuncle but if a person is careless, a boil may turn into a carbuncle. Carbuncles are deeper than a boil and heal more slowly. They may leave a scar on the part of body where they occur. Carbuncles have many openings as they involve many hair follicles.

Though sometimes boils and carbuncles result from poor hygiene, bacteria are the main cause of these skin infections. One should scrub his back and neck with a brush while taking shower to keep these parts clean. People with the problem of sugar have these boils and carbuncles more often than others but anyone with a poor immunity can fall prey to these infections.

Whenever there is infection caused by bacteria around hair follicles, the immune system of our body sends white blood cells to fight this infection. The pressure from warring parties such as white blood cells, bacteria and dead skin cells results in a boil or a carbuncle that is tender to touch. Carbuncles are many boils in one and are thus much more painful.

Washing the infected area several times in a day, applying antibiotic crèmes, applying hot compress to make the pus come closer to the surface are some of the ways one can get rid of these skin infections. If however you happen to have them too often, it is better to consult a dermatologist.