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Boils are infections, usually bacterial, that start deep inside the skin and often involve hair follicles. Another name for a boil is a furuncle.
They usually look like red bumps or lumps on the skin, and over time they fill with pus. Boils often occur on the buttocks.
The most common symptom of a boil is having a red, tender, and painful bump or lump on your skin. You may also see red or purple discoloration and swelling around the bump.
A boil usually begins as a painful or tender spot on the skin. It tends to be small, about the size of a pea. The spot usually becomes firm or hard.
The bump can continue to grow and fill with pus. As it does, it tends to get softer. Eventually, a yellow or white tip can form and rupture. Pus may leak out of the boil if it bursts.
Some boils don’t rupture and may end up with a crust that forms on top of the bump. A boil can also ooze clear liquid. Boils can continue growing until they are pretty big — they may reach the size of a golf ball.
Several other skin conditions can resemble boils. They include cystic acne, infected sebaceous cysts, and other skin infections.
Bacterial infections are the most common cause of boils on the buttocks. Staphylococcus aureus is usually the bacterium responsible for the boils. This bacterium often lives on the skin or inside the nose.
Skin folds are a common site for boils. Areas of the body that have hair, sweat, and friction are more likely to have boils.
Common risk factors for boils include:
- being a Staphylococcus aureus carrier, which means you always have this bacteria on your skin
- having eczema
- having close contact with or living with someone who has boils
- having diabetes mellitus
- having a condition that reduces your immune system function
- having anemia from iron deficiency
- having small cuts or injuries on your skin
- smoking tobacco
A primary care doctor or a skin specialist like a dermatologist can diagnose a boil on your skin. To diagnose a boil on the buttocks, a healthcare professional will ask you about your medical history and will perform a physical exam. They may also order blood tests or take a sample of the pus to determine the cause of the infection.
Many treatment options are available for boils. However, it’s important to avoid popping or puncturing the boil yourself. This can spread the infection to other parts of your body and lead to complications.
Home remedies for addressing boils include:
- Apply a warm compress to the boil, such as these warm compresses available for purchase.
- Try natural home treatments.
- Stick to a balanced diet that includes nutrients such as vitamin C.
Oral and topical medications
Oral and topical medications for preventing boils from occurring or spreading include:
- oral and topical antibiotics
- topical antiseptics
- antibacterial soap, such as these options available for purchase online
- hand sanitizer, such as these options available for purchase online
Lifestyle changes include:
- not picking at the boil or other sores
- washing your clothes and towels separate from other household items to avoid spreading the infection
- changing sheets daily and washing them
- bathing regularly
- managing weight to reduce skin folds
- avoiding gyms, swimming pools, and contact sports while your boils are healing, so any infection doesn’t spread to others
- not smoking tobacco
- eating a healthy diet
In some cases, large boils that don’t go away on their own require medical intervention. Medical procedures for boils include:
- making an incision (lancing) and draining the boil
- packing an incision with gauze to collect the pus and help the skin heal properly
Your healthcare professional can help you figure out the best treatment plan for your boil, and they can advise you on whether it seems best to move from home remedies to medical intervention.
It’s possible to have complications from a boil on the buttocks. Usually, these complications happen when the infection spreads to other parts of your body. It is important not to pick or pop a boil due to the increased risk of spreading the infection.
Complications may include:
- severe scarring
- a cluster of connected boils, called a carbuncle
- cellulitis, which is inflammation of the skin and adjacent soft tissue
- endocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart
- osteomyelitis, which is inflammation of the bone
- sepsis, which is a severe infectious inflammation that requires immediate medical attention
Boils are contagious and can spread to other people. You can also spread them to other parts of your own body.
You can take several steps to prevent getting and spreading boils, such as:
- Avoid close skin contact with people who have boils or who are Staphylococcus aureus carriers.
- Wash your hands throughout the day.
- Bathe regularly.
- Wash all clothes, towels, and other personal items you use while you have a boil.
- Avoid sharing towels and personal items with other people.
- Protect and cover all open skin injuries or wounds.
You may be able to make a complete recovery from a boil on the buttocks with just supportive home therapies. Larger boils may require a visit to a physician for a treatment plan.
A large or deep boil may leave behind a red mark or scar on the skin as it heals. In some cases, a skin infection and boils can come back.
Though boils themselves are not generally severe or life threatening, some complications from them can be, so it’s important to see a healthcare professional for a boil that is large or not going away.
Boils are skin infections that appear as red, painful bumps, which eventually swell and fill with pus. They commonly appear on the buttocks and in skin folds where sweat collects.
The most common cause of boils on the buttocks is a bacterial infection. Large boils may require a visit to a healthcare professional.