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Difference Between Abscess and Boil

Difference Between Abscess and Boil


Commonly, any pus-filled lump of infection beneath the skin is interchangeably referred to as an abscess or a boil. Most think that these two terms are synonymous; in fact, they each have a separate definition in medical terms. Technically, boils are a type of abscess, but not all abscesses can be considered as boils.

Let’s begin with the broader term – abscess. Clinically speaking, an abscess is ‘a collection of pus that has accumulated in a cavity formed by the tissue in which the pus resides on the basis of an infectious process, usually caused by bacteria, parasites, or other foreign materials such as splinters, bullet wounds, or injection needles. An abscess is a result of the body’s attempt to prevent the spread of infectious materials to other areas. Being a defense reaction, an abscess’ wall seals the infected tissue from the adjacent healthy cells to keep the pus from infecting adjoining tissues. One downside of such encapsulation is that it prevents immune cells from tackling bacteria in the pus, thus increasing inflammation tendencies. For this reason, abscesses rarely heal themselves. Furthermore, they are also characterized by causing redness, heat, swelling, pain, and loss of function. They may occur in any kind of solid tissue, such as the lungs, gums, tonsils, kidneys, digestive cavity, brain, and – most frequently – skin.

Some types of abscesses can be fatal; it is highly recommended to seek medical attention at the onset of an abscess occurrence. Treatment does not generally require antibiotics right away. Instead, abscesses are addressed through surgical drainage, debridement, and curettage. Antibiotics play a role in healing the abscess wound after primary closure.

Difference Between Abscess and Boil-1


As mentioned, skin abscess, also known as boil, is the most common kind. Boils vary from mild furuncles to complicated carbuncles. They can also occur in the form of cystic acne caused by the clogging of the sebaceous glands or pilonidal cysts, which occur along the buttock crease. Another common form of boil is the eye stye, which develops from infected hair follicles of the eyelashes. It can be caused by external factors such as splinters or bacterial entry via cuts or penetration to inner tissues. Boils are characterized by bumpy, red, pus-filled lumps around a hair follicle that are tender, warm, and very painful, ranging from pea-sized to golf ball-sized with a yellow or white point at the center that becomes visible when the boil is ready to drain or discharge pus. Add to that the following symptoms: the nodule increases in size depending on the severity of the infection and eventually develops pus, and the boil forms a pustule out of which the pus leaks out. The extent of a boil infection varies depending on the depth of penetration; with deep-seated infections, the boil takes a prolonged amount of time to heal. Moreover, boils can be treated with either home remedies or medical measures. Home remedies include heat application and topical poultice made from natural ingredients such as milk cream, cabbage leaves, and turmeric paste. These natural remedies help draw white blood cells to the infected area. Medical treatment, on the other hand, involves a minor surgery called lancing. The lancing or boil draining is normally done after the boil has developed a head. The boil is initially numbed, and then a minor incision is made to facilitate the extraction and draining of the pus. After the lancing, antibiotics are prescribed to prevent the bacteria from spreading and the infection from recurring.


1) Abscesses may occur in different parts of the body. Abscesses in the skin are known as boils.
2) Boils are pus-filled lumps around a hair follicle that result from infection. They are a consequence of the body’s defense mechanism that prevents the infection from spreading.
3) Boils and other types of abscesses must be given immediate medical attention. Treatment varies from lancing or draining the pus to use of antibiotics.

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  1. Hi DifferenceBetween,

    Helpful article – just what I needed.



  2. solves my problem…

  3. On time

  4. Very helpful. Easily understood because the article is well written

  5. Hi
    Your article on boils and abscesses has been very useful to me. thanks.

  6. Yes, spot on. All correct. My poultice is with Colloidal Silver. Fixes the little nuisances in 8 hours.

  7. Mine are from spider bites.

  8. I am highly helped. Thanks and be blessed.

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