Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Do doctors have to cut open my boil?"
If I go to the doctor for a boil, does he have to cut it open? Or can he give me some antibiotic or ointment that can make it better?
A boil - or abscess in medical terminology - is a superficial skin infection that has formed a pocket of trapped pus. It is a common problem and should be evaluated by a doctor. You should talk with a physician about your boil, and when you do, you should be prepared to discuss the following information. A superficial abscess is usually caused by bacteria commonly found on the skin, and often originates from a hair follicle. The affected area will become hard, red, and painful to the touch. Over time, some of these abscesses spontaneously drain through the skin, and pus comes out. It is possible that if the abscess is completely drained, it will heal on its own. If you see a doctor with an abscess of appropriate size and the pus has not drained, they will often recommend a procedure called an "incision and drainage" in which the area is numbed up and a small incision is made over the pocket of pus. This allows the pus to drain, which will decrease the pain in the area and allow it to heal more quickly. If you have systemic signs of infection such as fever, if there is significant redness (cellulitis) around the abscess, or if the infection appears serious, your doctor may prescribe an oral antibiotic as well. Topical ointments and antibiotics do not tend to be effective for boils. It is not possible to know if your boil needs to be opened without it being physically examined by a doctor. I strongly suggest that you make an appointment with a physician to be evaluated as infections can become more serious over time.
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