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 cells and fluids can develop, resulting in the formation of a carbuncle. The infection that causes carbuncles can be contagious; therefore, care should be taken to limit the spread of the infection.

What are the risk factors for a carbuncle?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing carbuncles. Not all people with risk factors will get carbuncles. Risk factors for carbuncles include:

  • Acne
  • Conditions that weaken the immune system, such as immunosuppressant drugs used in chemotherapy
  • Dermatomyositis (condition characterized by muscle inflammation and skin rash)
  • Diabetes (chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to use sugar for energy)
  • Eczema (skin inflammation)
  • Overall poor health
  • Poor hygiene
  • Skin damage caused by abrasive rubbing

Reducing your risk of carbuncles

You may be able to lower your risk of carbuncles by:

  • Avoiding direct contact with infected areas on other people
  • Maintaining good general health and skin hygiene practices
INTRODUCTION

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.... Read more about carbuncleintroduction

SYMPTOMS

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.... Read more about carbunclesymptoms

TREATMENTS

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.... Read more about carbuncletreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 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


Top Features in Skin, Hair and Nails

15 Ways To Get Better Medicine

People who are actively involved in their medical care stay healthier, recover quicker when they're ill, and live longer, healthier lives.