What is a carbuncle?

A carbuncle is a group of boils (infections associated with hair follicles) on the skin. A carbuncle forms when a number of boils group together to form one lump, or when multiple hair follicles become infected at once. When multiple carbuncles form, the condition is known as carbunculosis.

Carbuncles are typically triggered by bacterial infection of the hair follicles, usually by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, but other bacteria and fungi present on the skin surface may also cause the infection. If the infection is not resolved quickly, pockets of bacteria, cells, dead tissue, fluid, and pus form. The infections that trigger carbuncles are contagious and may spread.

Although carbuncles typically develop on the neck, they may form anywhere on the body. The exact reason why these infections develop is not known, but people with conditions that compromise the immune system are more susceptible to the development of boils and carbuncles. Carbuncles are more common in males than in females.

Seek prompt medical care if you have a painful lump or collection of boils on your skin, particularly if a carbuncle lasts for longer than two weeks, is recurrent, is located in the middle of the face or on the spine, or is accompanied by other symptoms, including a fever, an excessive amount of fluid around the carbuncle, or the presence of red streaks coming from the carbuncle.


What are the symptoms of a carbuncle?

Carbuncles develop as bulges under the skin. The skin around a carbuncle may become tender and bright red in color. Carbuncles and large boils may require treatment from a health care provider.

Common symptoms of carbuncles

You may notice symptoms of carbuncles daily or just once in a while. At times, any of these symptoms can be severe:


What causes a carbuncle?

A carbuncle develops when multiple hair follicles become infected by bacteria or fungus from the skin. Staphylococcus aureus is the type of bacteria most commonly associated with boils and carbuncles. The presence of infection draws in white blood cells from the body’s immune system to combat the infection. However, if the infection does not resolve quickly, pockets of bacteria, dead c... Read more about carbunclecauses


How is a carbuncle treated?

Individual boils should heal on their own after several weeks, but larger boils and carbuncles may require medical treatment. You should never attempt to force a carbuncle to open or drain, since doing so could spread the infection. Once a carbuncle starts to drain, the area surrounding it should be cleaned often using warm, damp cloths or gauze.

Medical treatment for carbuncles i... Read more about carbuncletreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Skin, Hair and Nails

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