Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"If you have a boil does it have to be lanced?"
I've got what my dad is convinced is a boil and it is embarrassing because it is on my face. Do I have to have it lanced? Or do sometimes boils heal on their own and I don't have to have it lanced?
A boil is a small abscess, or pocket of infection under the skin. A boil can begin as a small pimple or infected hair follicle and grow into something that is much more noticeable and painful. If these areas of infection are small enough, they can be treated with antibiotic ointment and most of the time they heal fine. If the boil is somewhat bigger, or if there are many small infected foci that cannot be covered with antibiotic ointment, then an oral antibiotic can be given. Others become large enough that any antibiotics taken by mouth or topically will not penetrate deep enough into the boil or abscess to take care of the infection. In these cases, the boil will need to be drained (or lanced). There is no specific size of a boil that must be drained. The decision is made by a clinician that examines the wound and decides what the best mode of action is. If you get it lanced, it will heal much faster and without the need for any antibiotics. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can examine your infection and determine what is the best course of action. Good luck.
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