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Difference Between Abscess and Boil

Abscess vs 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 mere synonyms. But, 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, it 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 or parasites, or other foreign materials such as splinters, bullet wounds, or injecting needles.’ An abscess is a result of the body’s attempt to prevent the spread of infectious materials to other parts. Being a defense reaction, an abscess’ wall seals the infected tissue from the adjacent healthy cells to keep the pus from infecting adjoining tissues. Downside of such encapsulation would be that it prevents immune cells from tackling bacteria in the pus, thus increasing inflammation tendencies. Given that, they rarely heal themselves. Furthermore, abscesses are also characterized by redness, heat, swelling, pain and loss of function. They may occur in any kind of solid tissue as in the lungs, gums, tonsils, kidneys, digestive cavity, brain, and skin most frequently. Some types could be fatal. It is highly recommended to seek medical attention onset of an abscess occurrence. Treatment does not generally require antibiotics right away. Rather, abscesses are addressed through surgical drainage, debridement and curettage. Antibiotics would play a role in healing the abscess wound after primary closure.
As mentioned, skin abscess, also known as boil, is the most common kind. Boils vary from mild furuncles to the complicated carbuncles. They can also be 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 eye lashes. They may 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 of the lump 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 upon the severity of the infection and eventually develops pus and the boil forms a pustule from where the pus within it leaks out. The extent of a boil infection varies depending on the depth of penetration. With deep-seated infections, the boil takes prolonged time to get healed. Moreover, they 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 among others. These natural remedies help in draw more white blood cells to the infected area. Medical treatment, on another note, 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 facilitates the extraction and draining of the pus. After the lancing, antibiotics are prescribed to control the bacteria from spreading or 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 result of the body’s defense mechanism in preventing 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…

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