A carbuncle is a form of abscess that is larger in size and possesses one or more opening. From these opening pus comes out. A carbuncle is usually the result of bacterial infection. The infection is communicable so other people should avoid contact. Further, avoid squeezing it or pricking it as this also promotes spread of infection to other parts of the body. In addition, people should avoid touching it and if they have touched, they should wash their hands. This way they will prevent the spread of infection to other body parts.
Carbuncle can frequently involve back, fingers, shoulders, back of the neck, thighs or hips. In order to differentiate it from boil, a carbuncle is usually bigger in size than a boil. Carbuncles are found to occur more in males as compared to females. It is necessary to seek help for severe form of carbuncles.
Signs and Symptoms of Carbuncle
A carbuncle results into a more severe and the deeper sort of infection. It also heals slowly and is likely to leave a scar after healing.
- A carbuncle size is just like a pea but it can be as bigger as a size of golf ball.
- It usually grows faster.
- It possesses white or yellow centre from which pus is oozing out.
- The area around it would be red and irritable.
- There may be enlargement of the lymph nodes of the affected side.
- There is a symptom of pain in the affected area by the carbuncle.
- A person suffering from a carbuncle usually feels unwell.
- He/she may be having a fever with rigors and chills.
- There is generalized body weakness and feeling of illness.
When To See a Doctor
Normally a carbuncle requires a doctor visit because it is the result of an infection that needs to be sorted out and eradicated. You must see your doctor if:
- A carbuncle is producing extreme pain
- A carbuncle is worsening rapidly and is very much large in size
- A carbuncle occurs frequently.
- It is associated with fever with rigors and chills
- It is associated with any other symptom.
- It is present on the spine of the back or on the face.
- You are immunocompromised, diabetic patient or undergone to organ transplantation
- It is must for the adults as well as the younger children, who develop carbuncles quite often, to seek a medical care.
Picture 1 : Carbuncle at the back of neck (which is one of the most common locations)
Image source: beltina.org
Picture 2 : Carbuncle on the shoulder
Picture 3 : Carbuncle photo
Image source: SFS
Picture 4 : Carbuncle with pus
Causes of Carbuncle
As carbuncle is the result of infection so the notorious bacteria causing carbuncle is the staphylococcus aureus bacteria. This bacterium lives on our skin and also is also found in the throat and nose. The infection occurs when the bacteria gain entry through the hair follicle. It can also enter the skin and can infect to produce carbuncle via a scratch or puncture.
Since carbuncle spoils the skin’s defensive barricade, as a result certain skin problems for instance eczema and acne, makes an individual more vulnerable to carbuncles and boils. When several boils amalgamate to form one bump, it leads to the formation of carbuncle. It also arises when various hair follicles become at once infected by the microorganisms. The condition in which numerous carbuncles appear is called carbunculosis.
Other stimulating factors that may bring about carbuncle formation include
- Rash due to shaving
- Hair pulling
- Poor hygiene
- Poor nutrition
- Immunodeficiency state
Moreover, diabetic patients or those suffering from HIV infection or AIDS are particularly at high risk of developing a carbuncle. The reason is that the body immunity is low and it is not able to fight against the infections. When person is healthy with intact immunity, it remains safe from lots of infectious microorganisms. The immune response within the body kills the invading microorganism. But when it is low, people become susceptible to a number of those infections known as opportunistic infections that cannot be occurred in a healthy person.
Certain other Risk Factors
There are various other risk factors associated with carbuncle formations. These include:
- Overall poor health
- Older age
- Chronic skin conditions
- Diseases of the kidney and liver
- Diabetes mellitus
- Skin damage as a result of an abrasive rubbing
- Treatment with immunomodulating agents
Carbuncle can also develop in otherwise healthy individual and is particularly common in people living in the dormitories, hostels or any such places.
Most of the time, carbuncles are easily diagnosed clinically on the basis of their typical appearance. Sometimes, it becomes difficult to differentiate it from the ruptured epidermoid cyst. So the pus is tested for the presence of causative agent. Culture and gram staining are used to detect the presence of infective microorganisms.
Treatment of Carbuncle
- Since carbuncle is the result of the bacterial infection, so antibiotics are used to treat it. These are given orally. These are also recommended when carbuncle is producing pain in the muscles, ligament or bones. The antibiotics should be used until the carbuncle has resolved and healed out. Staphylococcus aures is considered culprit behind carbuncles, so those antibiotics are prescribed that is specially used to treat these infective bacteria.
- It is necessary to treat the infection by the bacteria. If carbuncle is the result of Streptococcus pyogenes, it should be effectively treated with antibiotics. Otherwise, it can enter the bacteria and leads to bacteraemia. This bacterium also results into rheumatic fever. It also infects the valves of the heart.
- In case of repeated development of carbuncle, it is must to undergo a medical treatment because it aids decreasing the complications linked with an infection.
Surgical Treatment and Removal
Carbuncles that are large and deep, they require drainage by the doctor. Pus is drained by making an incision over it.
- Antibacterial soaps may also help in lessening the spread of infection. You can apply crushed garlic on the carbuncle directly under the hot compress to assist draining of the pus. Other useful homemade remedies for carbuncle include use of tea tree oil calendula or neem. These also act as antibiotics and thus kill bacteria and ease pain. Apply them under the compress.
- In order to drain it, one needs to place warm moist cloth over it and soak it many times a day. After carbuncle gets drained, healing process also increases. But it is necessary that carbuncle should not be squeezed or cut unless without a supervision of a medical doctor otherwise it will lead to spread of infection and more worsening of condition.
- Drink plenty of water. In case of fever, take paracetamol. It will settle fever and make you feel better.
In case of repeated development of carbuncle, it is must to undergo a medical treatment because it aids decreasing the complications linked with an infection.
If carbuncle is not treated, it then perforates as the skin over the carbuncles weakness within two weeks. This is in fact being the result of activation of the immune system.
- Maintenance of the proper hygiene is essential as it prevents the infection to spread. It is also necessary that you should wash your hands in case you have touched the carbuncle. Antibacterial soap should preferably be used. Other clothing, bed sheets, towels and washcloths, etc should be washed properly.
- In case of recurrent occurrence of carbuncles, one can use cleanser having chlorhexidine, triclosan, and triclocarban, etc.
- Those patients who are immunodeficient should seek help from their health care provider, also diabetes should be controlled. Individuals with other diseases should get a proper treatment.