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Boils (Skin Abscesses)

What is the prognosis (outcome) for a boil?

The majority of boils in healthy people resolve on their own with home care (described above) without forming a scar. The prognosis is also excellent for boils that are treated in the health care setting by opening or lancing. Antibiotics may or may not be required after a boil has been lanced by a health care professional. Complications of a boil are rare and are more likely to occur in people with suppressed immune systems.

What kinds of health care specialists treat boils?

Many boils resolve without specific treatment, but a dermatologist is a doctor commonly consulted for management of a boil. Other health care specialists who may treat boils include a primary-care doctor, which may be a family practitioner, pediatrician, or internal-medicine doctors. With severe boils or spreading infection, an infectious-disease specialist or surgeon may be consulted. Emergency-medicine doctors may treat certain cases of severe infection caused by boils or abscesses.

What are complications of boils?

Complications of boils include formation of a larger abscess, a worsening or spreading of infection to adjacent areas of skin or soft tissue (cellulitis), and very rarely, spread of the infection through the bloodstream to sites elsewhere in the body. Sometimes a boil may be caused by an organism typically associated with more serious infections, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), with a risk of spreading this infection to deeper tissues. Recurrence of the infection is another possible complication, which is more likely in certain types of boils. Recurrence is most common in the disease hidradenitis suppurativa and may also occur in situations in which the cause of the boil or abscess is persistent, such as the clogging of oil ducts seen in cystic acne.

Reviewed on 5/12/2017
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