What are pustules?

Pustules are small, pus-filled sores located at the surface of the skin. They are most commonly seen in acne, although they can be a sign of any infection involving the skin. Pustules appear on the skin as small, raised, reddened areas that typically have a whitish center. They may or may not be painful or tender to the touch. Pustules most commonly occur on the face, chest and shoulders and in areas of increased sweating.

Pus is caused by the breakdown of inflammatory cells produced by the body to fight infection. Typically, pus forms during the course of a bacterial infection. Although neutrophils (type of immune system cell) initially engulf and kill bacteria, they themselves are eventually broken down and become a major constituent of pus. All types of bacteria that cause disease are capable of producing infections that lead to pus.

In some cases, conditions other than bacterial infections can produce skin pimples or bumps that have the appearance of pustules. These include chickenpox, yeast infections, and herpesvirus infections such as cold sores or genital herpes.

The formation of pustules may be a symptom of a bacterial infection, which may be a serious condition. Seek prompt medical care if you have pustules that are persistent or recurrent or that cause you concern.


What other symptoms might occur with pustules?

Pustules can be caused by bacterial infections and may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Other symptoms that may occur along with pustules

Pustules may be accompanied by symptoms localized to the skin or related to other body systems including:


What causes pustules?

Pustules are caused by the accumulation of pus at the surface of the skin. Although pus formation typically indicates a bacterial infection, pustules are most commonly seen in acne, which is caused by the clogging of pores in the skin and the subsequent accumulation of oil and bacteria.

Common causes of pustules

Pustules may be caused by infections or other common condi... Read more about pustulescauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 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.

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