November 26, 2015
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Boils (cont.)

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What causes boils to form?

There are many causes of boils. Some boils can be caused by an ingrown hair. Others can form as the result of a splinter or other foreign material that has become lodged in the skin. Others boil, such as those of acne, are caused by plugged sweat glands that become infected. Often the exact cause of a boil cannot be determined.

The skin is an essential part of our immune defense against materials and microbes that are foreign to our body. Any break in the skin, such as a cut or scrape, can develop into an abscess should it become infected with bacteria.

What are risk factors for boils?

Anyone can develop a boil. However, people with certain illnesses or who take certain medications that weaken the body's immune system (the natural defense system against foreign materials or microbes) are more likely to develop boils. Illnesses that are associated with impaired immune systems include diabetes and kidney failure. Diseases in which there is inadequate antibody production (such as hypogammaglobulinemia) can increase the tendency to develop boils.

Many medications can suppress the normal immune system and increase the risk of developing boils and other infections. These medications include cortisone medications (prednisone [Deltasone, Liquid Pred] and prednisolone [Pediapred Oral Liquid, Medrol]) and medications used for cancer chemotherapy.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/9/2015


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