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Carbuncles – Symptoms, Causes, And Natural Treatments

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Carbuncles – Symptoms, Causes, And Natural Treatments November 19, 2018

Carbuncles not only look hideous but can also be quite painful. The highly contagious nature of such boils is another worrisome factor. A carbuncle usually occurs in clusters. Did you ever develop this skin condition? If yes, you’d be aware that it is best to avail treatment at the earliest to resolve this issue. This is exactly where this post can be of help. It includes a few home remedies as well as medical options available for treating carbuncles. Keep reading for more information.

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What Are Carbuncles?

Carbuncles are clusters of boils that look red and swollen. They may even be painful. These boils are connected to each other underneath the skin. They usually occur in a single group and on hairy parts of your body – like the nape of your neck or your buttocks, groins, armpits, or thighs.

The main cause of carbuncles is the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. These bacteria usually inhabit the surface of your skin, throat, and even your nasal passages and can cause skin infections by gaining entry through the hair follicles.

Carbuncles are also often filled with pus, which is a mixture of old cells, white blood cells, bacteria, and dead skin cells. This pus needs to be drained for the carbuncle to heal.

Carbuncles are also highly contagious. They can spread to different parts of the body of the affected individual and also to other people via skin-to-skin contact.

Here are some common signs and symptoms of carbuncles.

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Signs And Symptoms

The common symptoms associated with carbuncles are:

  • Red, painful bumps
  • Pus-filled center that oozes or crusts
  • Boils with multiple openings (called superficialities carbuncles)

Other less common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes, especially in the neck, groin, or armpits

Let’s now take a look at the causes and risk factors.

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Causes And Risk Factors

As we already know, carbuncles occur as a result of an infection to your hair follicles by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

A few other factors can increase your risk of developing carbuncles:

  • Advancing age
  • Obesity
  • Poor hygiene
  • Poor immunity
  • Chronic skin conditions or infections
  • Medical conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, or liver disease
  • Any condition/disease that causes your immune system to weaken
  • Close contact or sharing linens/towels with individuals who have carbuncles

Many tend to confuse carbuncles with boils, which are medically known as furuncles. However, there are many differences between the two.

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Furuncles Vs. Carbuncles

Furuncles

  • They occur as single red bumps.
  • They are usually filled with pus.
  • They are formed as a result of staphylococcal infection.
  • They affect a hair follicle and the surrounding tissue.
  • Furuncles hardly leave scars behind.

Carbuncles

  • They occur in clusters.
  • They may have one or more pus-filled heads.
  • They are caused by staphylococcal infection.
  • They are usually a cluster of furuncles that are joined together underneath your skin.
  • Carbuncles are often deep-rooted and can leave pitted scars.

If your boils do not drain, or if you suspect that you have developed a carbuncle, it is best to see a doctor immediately.

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Diagnosis

You must see a doctor as soon as possible if you have developed a carbuncle, especially around your face, nose, eyes, or ears.

Your doctor will first drain the boil. Then, the drained pus is sent to a laboratory to identify the bacteria causing it.

You may be prescribed the following medical treatments.

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Medical Treatments

Once your carbuncle is completely drained, other treatments are usually unnecessary. However, you may require treatment with antibiotics in cases where:

  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection is involved.
  • There is a cellulitis infection.
  • A person has a weakened immunity.
  • Drainage is incomplete.
  • The infection has spread to other body parts.

Depending on the severity of the carbuncles, the healing may take anywhere between two to three weeks post medical treatment.

Here are some home remedies that can assist in getting rid of carbuncles.

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Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Carbuncles

  1. Warm Compress
  2. Tea Tree Oil
  3. Turmeric Paste
  4. Apple Cider Vinegar
  5. Baking Soda
  6. Garlic
  7. Vitamins

Natural Remedies To Treat Carbuncles

1. Warm Compress

Warm Compress Pinit

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You Will Need

A warm compress

What You Have To Do
  1. Take a warm compress and place it on the carbuncle.
  2. Hold it in place for at least 20 minutes.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this multiple times daily.

Why This Works

A warm compress can speed up the drainage of the carbuncles by halting the development of the abscess inside the boil. This also promotes the healing of the carbuncle (1).

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2. Tea Tree Oil

Tea Tree Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 3-4 drops of tea tree oil
  • 1 teaspoon of sweet almond oil
  • Cotton swabs
What You Have To Do
  1. Add three to four drops of tea tree oil to a teaspoon of sweet almond oil. Mix well.
  2. Dip a cotton swab into the mixture and
  3. Apply it to the affected spot.
  4. Leave it on until it dries.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this twice daily.

Why This Works

The antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of tea tree oil fight the microbes causing the infection and help the boils dry faster (2).

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3. Turmeric Paste

Turmeric Paste Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • Water (as required)
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a few drops of water to a teaspoon of turmeric powder.
  2. Mix well to form a smooth paste.
  3. Apply the paste to the affected area.
  4. Leave it on for 20 minutes before rinsing it off.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this once daily.

Why This Works

The major component of turmeric is curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties (3), (4). These properties can help in healing the inflamed carbuncle and fighting the microbes causing the infection.

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4. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar Pinit

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You Will Need
  • ½ tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon of water
  • Cotton swabs
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix half a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with half a tablespoon of water.
  2. Dip a cotton swab into the mixture and apply it to the carbuncle.
  3. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes before rinsing it off.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 2-3 times daily.

Why This Works

Apple cider vinegar possesses impressive antimicrobial properties and anti-inflammatory properties. They can help combat the infection causing the carbuncle and reduce inflammation and swelling (5).

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5. Baking Soda

Baking Soda Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add half a teaspoon of water to a teaspoon of baking soda.
  2. Mix well to form a thick paste.
  3. Apply the mixture to the carbuncle and leave it on for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Rinse it off with water.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 1-2 times daily until the carbuncle heals.

Why This Works

Baking soda is also known as sodium bicarbonate due to its composition. The topical application of this ingredient can help in drying up the carbuncle and getting rid of the infectious microbes causing it (6).

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6. Garlic

Garlic Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic
  • A cotton swab
What You Have To Do
  1. Crush two to three garlic cloves.
  2. Dip a cotton swab in the mixture and apply it to the carbuncle.
  3. Leave it on for 20-30 minutes before washing it off your skin.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this at least once daily.

Why This Works

One of the major constituents of garlic, allicin, exhibits significant anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties (7), (8). This makes garlic perfect for alleviating the symptoms and fighting the infection responsible for triggering the carbuncle.

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7. Vitamins

Vitamins Pinit

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Vitamins B12 and C are great for your skin.

Vitamin B12 is also known as cobalamin, altered levels of which can affect your skin negatively (9). It is necessary to consume vitamin B12 in moderate levels as too much or even too little of it can mean trouble to your skin.

Vitamin C also plays a significant role in the health of your skin. Its antioxidant properties can prevent oxidative damage to your skin (10).

You can consume foods rich them like citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy. If you want to take additional supplements, consult a doctor before doing so.

Along with the remedies, you can also follow the tips listed below to prevent the carbuncles from spreading and recurring.

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Prevention Tips

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap after touching a carbuncle.
  • Wash your clothing and linen with hot water and detergent.
  • Use a separate towel to wipe your face and body after washing.
  • Once the carbuncle ruptures, keep it covered using a gauze or bandage.
  • Change the gauze/bandage regularly.
  • Seal the used gauze/bandage and throw it away immediately after use.

Carbuncles usually heal on their own. However, treatment not only speeds up their healing but also prevents the risk of their recurrence. It is always better to use natural remedies in conjunction with medical treatments for treating a carbuncle. This is because, in some cases, there is a risk of deep scarring.

Are you aware of any other remedies to deal with carbuncles? Do share them with us in the comments section below.

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Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

When to see a doctor for carbuncles?

If the boil does not drain even after a few days of home treatments, see a doctor to avoid the risk of scarring.

Is a carbuncle a fungal infection?

A carbuncle is most often a result of a bacterial infection. In some cases, it can also be caused due to a viral infection. However, furuncles (boils) can be caused by a fungal infection.

What does ‘black pus’ mean?

Pus from a boil can be white, yellow, green, or even dark brown. Dark brown or black pus is often a result of an amoebic liver abscess.

How to drain a carbuncle at home?

A mild carbuncle will easily dry up on using any of the home remedies listed above. However, deeper carbuncles will not drain for days and may need medical attention.

References

  1. Boils and carbuncles: How are boils treated?” NCBI Bookshelf, US National Library of Medicine
  2. Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties” Clinical Microbiology Reviews, US National Library of Medicine
  3. Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of Curcuma longa: a review of preclinical and clinical research” Alternative Medicine Review, US National Library of Medicine
  4. A Review on Antibacterial, Antiviral, and Antifungal Activity of Curcumin” BioMed Research International, US National Library of Medicine
  5. Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression” Scientific Reports, US National Library of Medicine
  6. Antibacterial activity of baking soda” Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry, US National Library of Medicine
  7. Antimicrobial properties of allicin from garlic” Microbes and Infection, US National Library of Medicine
  8. Immunomodulation and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Garlic Compounds” Journal of Immunology Research, US National Library of Medicine
  9. A review of vitamin B12 in dermatology” American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine
  10. Vitamin C in dermatology” Indian Dermatology Online Journal, US National Library of Medicine
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