Skin abscesses result from the accumulation of pus in the hair follicles, skin tissue, or under the skin. When the pus-filled infection is confined to a single hair follicle and its surrounding tissue, it pops up in the form of a boil or furuncle.
However, when it spreads wider and deeper and join together under the skin, such that multiple tightly packed hair follicles get infected, the result is a cluster of furuncles collectively called a carbuncle.
Given that this is a more aggressive form of skin abscess that affects the deeper layers, carbuncles often lead to scarring as well!
Carbuncles are the manifestation of a bacterial infection and are typically filled with purulent exudate (pus).
Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes that inhabit the surface of the skin, throat, and nasal passage are most commonly responsible for this infection. The offending bacteria often lodge under the skin through a hair follicle or an injury-induced crack in the skin. However, sometimes there is no obvious point of entry.
Being highly contagious, the staph infection may spread to other parts of your body as well as to other people through skin-to-skin and the sharing of personal belongings.
Suppurative skin infections such as sycosis barbae, impetigo, and furunculosis are more common in patients who are colonized with Staphylococcus aureus, and there is evidence that boils and abscesses are associated with social deprivation, overcrowding, the use of communal facilities, obesity, diabetes, and impaired immunity.
The first line of treatment for carbuncles involves a procedure called incision and drainage (I&D) to carefully extract the infected fluid or pus contained within. This helps dry out the abscess and allows it to heal from the inside out.
This extraction process requires a great deal of precision, and it’s best to let the professionals handle it, rather than meddle with it yourself. Pricking or squeezing the sore can go horribly wrong and can transfer the infected pus to other areas of the skin, thereby making your condition even worse.
In order to combat the underlying bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, the doctor will write down a prescription for standard antibiotics used for treating staph infections, such as dicloxacillin or cephalexin.
Here are 10 ways to get natural relief from carbuncles at home.
Applying heat in the form of a warm compress is the best way to treat boils, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Compresses are also effective in softening the crusty layer formed on top of the carbuncle. This allows the pus to rise to the surface and eventually cause the boil to burst, thereby making it more convenient to extract the pus out to get rid of the infection for good.
Furthermore, this form of gentle heat therapy provides respite from the constant pain, swelling, and redness that are symptomatic of this condition.
Proper hygiene reduces your risk of developing a carbuncle and is essential when treating an existing cluster of boils.
Moreover, a sanitary lifestyle is perhaps the most important step for containing the spread of infection to other parts of the body and to other people.
Due to its antibacterial properties, eucalyptus oil has been found to be effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are often at the root of a carbuncle infection.
Besides combating the infection-causing bacteria at the core of this condition, this therapeutic potion also helps your skin heal well and fast.
Tea tree oil is another good remedy for a carbuncle. This natural antiseptic has strong antibacterial properties, which can help fight the root cause of the problem.
It also works as an anti-inflammatory to mitigate and manage the pain associated with carbuncles, making it an effective healing agent for a speedy recovery.
The multiple-layered onion contains within its folds significant antiseptic potential that can be used to address skin infections such as boils and carbuncles.
It uproots and eliminates the infection-causing microbes or bacteria thriving in your hair follicles.
The mechanism at work behind the topical application of onion is that it heats up the targeted skin, thereby stimulating blood flow directly to the boil. The increased blood supply makes the boil come to a head to facilitate easy drainage of the pus afterward.
Castor oil is another natural cure for carbuncles. It owes much of its effectiveness to a compound called ricinoleic acid. This star component works as a potent anti-inflammatory and also simultaneously exhibits considerable antibacterial action.
When it comes to treating boils through topical remedies, a little castor oil goes a long way. To optimize the skin-healing merits of this oil, apply small amounts directly to the boil at least three times a day until the boil subsides completely.
Whether it is a single boil or a carbuncle, turmeric is highly beneficial in providing quick and natural relief.
Turmeric is loaded with antibacterial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties that help expedite the healing process, alleviate symptomatic discomfort, and prevent further infection.
A 2014 study published in BioMed Research International highlights the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, the main compound of turmeric.
A natural blood purifier, immunity booster, and anti-inflammatory agent, turmeric has all the makings of a natural panacea that is readily available in most kitchens.
The skin-healing potential of turmeric when ingested or applied topically is particularly renowned and has been traditionally used to provide quick relief to various skin ailments including carbuncles.
For external use:
For oral use:
While it’s common knowledge that a warm compress goes a long way in treating boils and carbuncles, to maximize results, use a black tea compress instead of the regular one.
The tannins present in black tea possess anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the pain and eradicate the infection.
Epsom salt is also effective in the treatment of a carbuncle.
It helps bring the boils to a head due to its heating effect on the skin. This makes it far more convenient to extract the bacteria-carrying pus from the carbuncle, which is an essential pre-requisite for the skin healing to begin.
Being highly absorbent, Epsom salt helps draw out toxins and impurities from the skin as well.
Carbuncles are often associated with the following symptomatic discomforts:
If the carbuncle is left unattended, it will typically grow in size over several days up to 3-10 centimeters or even more in severe cases.
After about a week or so, you will notice the appearance of various pus-filled lumps on the surface of the infected skin. Once the carbuncle has expanded to its maximum size, the boils will burst and the pus will seep out of the skin.
The ruptured abscess may sometimes form an ulcer on the skin surface and will begin to naturally heal once the pus has completely drained out.
You will experience a noticeable reduction in the degree of pain once the carbuncle has burst open, and the infection in the surrounding skin will gradually subside as the pus is cleared.
Because the damage done by carbuncles extends deeper than the surface layers of the skin, they are likely to leave behind a scar at the site of the boil.
One life-threatening complication that you must be wary of is sepsis, wherein the infection spreads deep enough to contaminate the bloodstream. As long as your skin is riddled with pus-filled boils, you must take necessary precautions to avoid risking the entry of staph bacteria into the blood.
In this rare but dangerous situation, the infection travels through the blood and can give rise to serious bone, brain, or other infections affecting various parts of the body.
Carbuncles can take root despite the best of hygiene. However, there are certain preventive measures that can be adopted to avert the risk:
Males have a higher susceptibility to developing carbuncles than females.
Besides gender, the following factors can also increase one’s likelihood of developing an infected carbuncle:
If preliminary care and treatment with home remedies fail to provide any substantial relief from a large boil or carbuncle even after a week, you should get it medically examined by your doctor.
People with diabetes must exercise greater precaution and get medical assistance even for relatively smaller boils as they are increasingly prone to developing serious infections.
The following conditions necessitate prompt medical attention:
The doctor will recommend the appropriate antibiotics for your case, keeping in mind the severity of the infection and other health determinants.
However, if you do not register any relief after 2 or 3 days of antibiotic treatment, it is important to revisit your doctor for a future course of remedial strategy.
If you have a stubborn boil or carbuncle that sticks around for longer than 2 weeks, it may be wise to get it checked by a professional.
Only a dermatologist with a trained eye will be able to tell for certain if the skin abscess is indeed a carbuncle or not, after closely examining the infected area.
If you are someone who is prone to such breakouts, the need for a thorough medical examination is all the more essential.
The doctor may order a few lab tests, which include blood and urine cultures, to rule out certain conditions such as diabetes and liver or kidney disease that make one more susceptible to such skin sores.
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