Furuncles and carbuncles: Symptoms, causes, and treatment

A skin abscess happens when pus collects in hair follicles, skin tissues, or under the skin. A furuncle, also known as a boil, is a painful infection that forms around a hair follicle and contains pus.

A carbuncle is collection of boils that develop under the skin. When bacteria infect hair follicles, the follicles can swell and turn into boils and carbuncles.

A furuncle starts as a red lump. It may be tender. The lump rapidly fills with pus, and as it grows it may burst.

Furuncles, boils, and carbuncles typically affect the thighs, armpits, buttocks, face, and neck.

Individuals with weakened immune systems, adolescents, and young adults are more susceptible to furuncles than younger children or older adults.

Furuncle or carbuncle?

[furuncle]Carbuncles and furuncles are a kind of skin abscess.

Furuncles and carbuncles are similar but with some differences.

Furuncles, or boils, are skin abscesses that result from staphylococcal infection. They affect a hair follicle and surrounding tissue.

Carbuncles are groups of furuncles that join together under the skin. They affect the deeper layers, and they can lead to scarring.


Furuncles and carbuncles both result in swelling under the skin, and there may be other symptoms, too.


Furuncles develop rapidly as pink or red bumps. They are often painful. The surrounding skin is typically red, inflamed and tender.

The lesions often appear on the neck, breast, face, buttocks, or thighs. They occur in places prone to hair, sweat, and friction, and they tend to start in a hair follicle.

The bump fills with pus within a few days, and it grows. The bigger it gets, the more painful it becomes.

Furuncles may go away without any intervention. Sometimes they burst and heal without a scar within 2 days to 3 weeks.

They are common among teenagers and young adults, and they affect males more than females. Overcrowded and unhygienic living conditions increase the risk.


A carbuncle is less common than a furuncle, or boil. It is a collection of boils on one site. It is larger than a single boil, measuring up to 4 inches across. A carbuncle usually has one or more openings that drain pus onto the skin.

The most common cause of a carbuncle is a bacterium known as Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus). The infection may lead to generalized body symptoms, including a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, and a general feeling of being unwell, weak, and exhausted.

The infection can spread to other parts of the body, and it can spread to other people too, so that other household members may develop one at the same time.

Carbuncles are most likely on the back, the thighs, or the back of the neck.

They affect males more frequently than females, and especially older men with poor health or a weakened immune system.

Carbuncle infections tend to be deeper and more severe than those caused by furuncle. The risk of scarring is higher, and they take longer to develop and to resolve than furuncles.

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