What Are the Boils or Abscess?
Abscesses are body cavities that accumulate pus and inflame the tissue around as a result of an infection. These infections occur due to the presence of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and some other foreign element that enters into the body. They are usually superficial (subcutaneous) but they can occur on internal tissues of the body.
The size and the number of liquids that accumulate in an abscess depend on how big the infection is: the more microorganisms attack the body in that area, the greater the number of leukocytes that comes to combat, and that produce as much dead particles.
In the case of subcutaneous abscesses, they usually begin as a rosette, a simple reddening of the skin. However, due to the infection produced by bacteria, it quickly fills with pus and fluids. After this, the lump begins to grow, until it finally breaks and begins to drain the liquids.
Types of Boils
The boils don’t have a specific place of appearance, they simply appear where the infection takes place. However, the most common places are the armpits, the breast, the groin and the gums. These are the main types of abscesses:
- Hepatic (liver)
- Bartholin (vagina)
- Spinal cord
In the case of superficial or subcutaneous abscesses the symptom cycle usually is as follows:
- The appearance of a painful pea-sized red bump
- The skin becomes red and swollen
- An increase of the temperature in the zone, as a product of the infection (local fever)
- The growth of the bump in a few days while filling with pus (the small pea can increase in size until simulating a golf ball)
- The appearance of a white or yellowish tip
- Breaking the pouch and draining the pus
As the pus leaves our organisms the patient begins to feel better. While it’s draining, the inflammation decreases, as well as the pain. The temperature of the zone also begins normalizing. After the pus comes out completely, the problem usually ends. If the protuberance and/or opening were very large, there may be a small scar left.
Like all body infections, the boils cause other symptoms such as fever, chills, sweating and general malaise. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine,
“Abscesses in the skin are easy to see. They are red, raised, and painful. Abscesses in other areas of the body may not be seen, but they may cause organ damage.”
Teeth Must be Treated Carefully
Dental boils are one of the most common, and also one of the most dangerous (this is why we make special mention of it). It’s usually caused by caries that isn’t treated properly, and/or medication hasn’t been administered. On any dental caries poorly attended, an infectious circle can be generated, that ends up becoming an abscess.
The teeth are a very important part of our bodies for our subsistence. In case the patients present any discomfort of this type, they should go immediately to a dentist. A condition of this type that isn’t supervised by a specialist can bring much more serious problems, and in extreme cases can even cause death.
Basically, boils causes are localized infections on certain body’s areas. The abscess is the accumulation of fluid, not the infection itself. When the foreign body attacks, the body tries to fight it. For this, the leukocytes move through the bloodstream to the affected area and accumulate in the surrounding tissue to cope with the invading agent. During this process, it’s when the pus is formed, as well as the other liquids that accumulate.
In the case of external abscesses, any wound suffered by the skin can become in boils causes, as they induce the entry of germs or bacteria, and that’s where the infectious process begins. A hair follicle that becomes infected and forms pus is a mini-abscess, for example. In this case (the subcutaneous ones) the most common microorganism is the staphylococcus bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus).
According to the Minnesota Department of Health: “S. aureus has long been recognized as one of the most important bacteria that cause disease in humans. It is the leading cause of skin and soft tissue infections such as abscesses (boils), furuncles, and cellulitis. Although most staph infections are not serious, S. aureus can cause serious infections such as bloodstream infections, pneumonia, or bone and joint infections.”
When Should We See a Doctor?
These are good reasons to see a doctor looking for boils treatment:
- The condition is located on the face or spine
- Excessive pain
- The affection produces widespread discomfort in the body
- The appearance of red stripes around the infected area
- The abscess quickly worsens
- There’s general fever or chills
- The abscess is too big
We must also go immediately if we have any condition or disease that weakens the immune system (such as HIV) or any disease that compromises our circulatory system and ability to heal (such as diabetes).
Other reasons to consult with a professional are having recently been hospitalized, or receiving an organ transplant, or in the case of patients taking corticosteroids. We must also consider the doctor in case of children and seniors.
We must be clear that the boils are a consequence. The true cause is the infection. That’s why, at the time of diagnosing the patient, the doctor must find out which is the external or malignant agent that’s causing this infection. In the case of subcutaneous abscesses, a sample of the fluid is usually taken through a Skin Lesion Aspiration, by a light drainage or with a syringe.
This sample is later sent to the laboratory where a culture is carried out, in order to determine the nature of the microorganisms involved. According to the results, the treatment will be administered.
In the case of internal abscesses, things get a bit complicated. Here’s a brief description of 3 of the most common tests performed for diagnosis:
This study is a Magnetic Resonance, an imaging study that can diagnose problems in the thin intestine such as blockages or bleeding. A contrast fluid is usually given to the patient to highlight the intestine during the study. Subsequently, the tomography machine makes a series of detailed photographs of the area that allow the doctor to determine the nature of the disease.
These are some guidelines that the patient must follow in order to perform the exam according to the American College of Radiology, North American Radiology Society “Guidelines about eating and drinking before your exam vary between facilities. Unless you are told otherwise, take your regular medications as usual. Leave jewelry at home and wear loose, comfortable clothing. You may be asked to wear a gown. If you have claustrophobia or anxiety, you may want to ask your doctor for a mild sedative prior to the exam.”
This study also uses a contrast medium that highlights the digestive system, but instead of a tomography machine, a special X-ray device is used. With this study, the doctor can obtain detailed images of the pelvis, intestine and the abdomen (including its organs).
This study is commonly used to diagnose bleeding, obstructions and Crohn’s disease. It’s very useful to determine if the nature of the ailments has generated an abscess. Through this study, you can visualize in more detail the walls of the thin intestine (in fact it’s the most effective method to do so). It’s a painless study is not invasive and is precise.
This test is designed specifically to detect boils in the body. This is achieved through the use of a radioactive material. The procedure for this examination is this:
- A blood sample is taken from the patient, usually from an elbow, or from the back of the hand.
- Then the sample is sent to the laboratory, where the white blood cells are marked with a radioactive substance (a radioisotope) called Indium.
- The blood is introduced again into the patient
- After a period of 6 to 24 hours, the patient returns to the doctor where a scintigraphy is performed.
This study (the scintigraphy) aims to detect unusual accumulations of white blood cells in the body (precisely for this the leukocytes are marked). In those areas where these globules accumulate is where there is a high probability that the infectious process is developing.
The boils treatment depends on the nature of the microorganism involved in the infection. If the doctor decides to administer any medication, this may be an antibiotic, a fungicide or anti-amoebas, depending on the case. It’s precisely because of this that the culture is performed in the diagnostic phase.
A drainage of the bag is usually done to eliminate the liquid. In the case of subcutaneous conditions, the doctor usually sanitizes the area, and then make a small incision to cause the fluid to be expelled. If the bag is large, the doctor generally uses a gauze, in order to ensure that all the accumulated substance in the cavity goes out.
In the case of internal conditions, there are two procedures for boils treatment and draining.
First, there’s Open Surgery, the traditional method. Nowadays, medical science has developed less invasive and more efficient methods, such as the Percutaneous Abscess Drainage. This procedure uses an imaging guide for the location of the bag, and the subsequent introduction of a needle or catheter to drain the fluids. In both cases, hospitalization and the use of anesthesia are usually required.
Home Remedies For Boils
For superficial abscesses, the most effective home method is the preparation of a clay suspension. This simple preparation consists of adding a little water to 2 tablespoons of clay. The natural components of the clay help reduce inflammation and accelerate the healing process.
The most suitable clay for the treatment of an abscess is green. This can be purchased at a naturist store. When we’re going to apply the suspension, it’s best to place a clean cloth on the affected area, and then put the clay on it. Then just wait for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the product to act. Once the time has elapsed remove the cloth. Finally, we wash and sanitize the area completely. This process can be done 3 times a day.
The second of the boils remedies is the use of the Jurubeba Root (Solanum paniculatum). This’s a very common medicinal plant in Brazil (fortunately, we can also buy it in health food stores). This’s the procedure:
- 2 little spoons of Jurubeba root
- 1 tablespoon of wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 1 cup of red onion
Mix everything and place it in a pan. Then cook until everything reduces. Once reduced, remove from heat and let cool. For the application, we place the preparation on a cloth and apply it in the abscess area. We leave it for a period of 2 hours, and then we remove and sanitize the area. We repeat the procedure at least 2 times a day.
Another good idea is always to apply heat to the area. The heat contributes to the abscess opening and draining. You can apply warm water compresses throughout the day. If the doctor indicates a topical treatment, it’s best to apply it, and then take a plastic bag and cut out a rectangle that covers a little beyond the area (a plastic patch). After application of the cream, apply the patch and seal with surgical adhesive. The heat generated by the “confinement” of the area will help the drainage to accelerate. In case that this condition appears, just try one of these homemade boils remedies.
Onions are extremely rich with antibacterial properties which are great for treatment of boils. In order to treat boils with onion, you will need to slice a piece of onion and apply it on the area. You can wrap it with bandage in order to make sure it stays in place. Leave it for few hours and repeat this 2-3 times during the day.
Turmeric contains a high amount of anti-inflammatory properties which are great for treatment of boils. Also, it is great blood detoxifier which can contribute to quickly remove and treat boils.
The preparation process is very simple and it involves boiling one teaspoon of turmeric powder with water or milk. Consume the mixture 3 times a day for at least 5 days. You can also make a paste of fresh ginger and turmeric. You will need to mix equal parts of the ingredients and you should get a paste. Apply this mixture on the affected area and cover it with a clean cloth.
Tea tree oil
This is a great remedy for speeding up the process of healing because it contains antifungal, antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties. In order to use it for this purpose, you will need to use a clean cloth and dip it into the solution. Use this cloth for massaging the area and repeat this for 5-6 times during the day, or until the boil disappears completely.
Garlic contains a high amount of antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties which can help you treat and get rid of boils very quickly. In order to prepare the remedy for this purpose, you should mash 2-3 fresh garlic cloves and apply it on the affected area. Keep the paste on the affected area for 10 minutes and repeat it a couple of times during the day.
Boils remedies and causes depend on the nature of the infection. Nevertheless, the best strategy against them is prevention. It’s important that we have good hygiene habits, such as frequent hand washing, and the use of antibacterial soaps and lotions. Oral hygiene is something that we must also maintain, using products with fluoride to prevent the accumulation of bacteria in the oral area. Always remember to call the doctor in case of doubts, or if you feel some symptoms that we previously described.