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Boils

Boils can occur anywhere on your skin, but appear mainly on your face, neck, armpits, buttocks or thighs — hair-bearing areas where you're most likely to sweat or experience friction. Signs and symptoms of a boil usually include:

  • A painful, red bump that starts out about the size of a pea
  • Red, swollen skin around the bump
  • An increase in the size of the bump over a few days as it fills with pus (can sometimes reach the size of a baseball)
  • Development of a yellow-white tip that eventually ruptures and allows the pus to drain out

Carbuncles

A carbuncle is a cluster of boils that form a connected area of infection. Carbuncles often occur on the back of the neck, shoulders or thighs. Compared with single boils, carbuncles cause a deeper and more severe infection and are more likely to leave a scar. People who have a carbuncle often feel unwell in general and may experience fever and chills.

When to see a doctor

You usually can care for a single, small boil yourself. But see your doctor if you have more than one boil at a time or if a boil:

  • Occurs on your face
  • Worsens rapidly or is extremely painful
  • Causes a fever
  • Is more than 2 inches (5 centimeters) across
  • Hasn't healed in two weeks
  • Recurs
Jul. 17, 2013