ZocdocAnswersWhat's the difference between a boil and a wart?

Question

What's the difference between a boil and a wart?

What is the difference between a boil and a wart? I just saw my doctor about what I thought was a wart, but she called it a boil and said we could 'lance' it. Can warts also be lanced, or do they have to be treated in a different way?

Answer

A boil is a type of skin infection caused by one of several bacteria that normally live on the skin. Under certain circumstances, such as cuts or nicks in the skin, they invade under the skin and cause an infection. Initially a boil will look like a tender, reddened area of the skin and, as the infection evolves, it will swell and develop pus at its center. The treatment for boils depends on their severity. Small boils can simply be treated by applying topical antibiotic creams. However, larger boils usually need to be lanced, that is opened up so that the pus can drain out and the area heal. If you have fever or spreading redness around the boil, your primary care doctor will likely also prescribe oral antibiotics to halt the infection. Warts are also an infection of the skin, caused by the human papilloma virus. Unlike boils, they are never dangerous and rarely require immediate treatment. They tend to be dry, raised skin growths without pus or liquid inside of them. Treating warts is done by applying one of several irritating chemicals to their surface or by freezing. Your primary care doctor can discuss these various treatment options with you.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.