A furuncle is a skin infection involving the entire hair follicle and the underlying skin tissue.
Staphylococcal bacteria are normally found on the skin surface. Damage to the hair follicle allows the bacteria to enter deeper into the tissues of the hair follicle and the underlying tissue. Hair follicles can become inflamed on any area of the body. Blocked sweat glands or ingrown hairs may contribute to the formation of a furuncle. They are most likely to develop on areas that are subjected to constant friction, sweating, or rubbing by clothing or athletic gear.
Furuncles are seen most often on the back of the neck, face, buttocks, thighs, groin, breast, or in the underarm area. The lesions are raised, tender, shiny, and bright red. Intense, throbbing pain is common with a furuncle. As the furuncle matures, it becomes filled with a yellow or white creamy discharge. The person may have a fever and feel fatigued.
Furuncles are caused by an acute, localized infection which produces an abscess of the skin and underlying tissue.
While anyone may develop a furuncle, they are more common in people who: are overweight or obese have diabetes have poor hygieneuse intravenous (IV) drugs
Prevention of furuncles includes good hygiene, use of antibacterial soap and wearing loose clothing that allows air to circulate.
Diagnosis is made on the appearance of the skin. Skin cultures may show staphylococci or other bacteria.
Chronically infected and inflamed hair follicles can be quite painful and annoying. This condition can lead to permanent scarring.
Bacteria that cause furuncles may be spread to other members of the household by direct contact.
Furuncles may burst, drain, and then heal on their own without treatment. This usually happens within a week.
Warm, moist compresses applied to the furuncle help to promote drainage. This is done by soaking the area with a warm, moist cloth several times a day.
Sometimes the furuncle may need to be surgically drained. The most common procedure for this is called incision and drainage.Antibiotics may be used to control the infection.
Antibiotics may cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and in some cases an allergic reaction. Any surgery can be complicated by bleeding, infection, or a reaction to the anesthesia.
Furuncles will go away with treatment, but some people have recurrences.
A person with a furuncle should call a healthcare professional if a fever develops, if the furuncle fails to heal within a week, or if any other new or worsening symptoms occur.
Hill, Marcia J. Skin Disorders: Mosby's Clinical Nursing Series, 1994
The Merck Manual of Medical Information, 1997