What Do Boils Look Like?

A boil is a skin abscess that can appear anywhere on your body. In other words, it's a localized infection deep within your skin. It normally starts as a small red, tender mark on your skin, but it soon becomes hardened. In time, the center of the abscess softens and becomes filled with pus. The pus inside the boil accumulates until it "comes to a head" on the boil and then can be drained out through the surface of the skin or surgically opened. Needless to say, this in an uncomfortable, itchy, and painful process.

Boils can grow slowly or rapidly, depending partly on the type of boil and its cause. They can last anywhere from seven days to two weeks. If not given proper home treatment or medical care, boils can grow rapidly and even become the size of golf balls! But if treated properly, this should not be a worry.

How Do I Know if I Have a Boil?: Symptoms of Boils

Some common and less common symptoms of boils include:

  • Redness or itching on the skin
  • Rapid growth of swollen area
  • Painful, red lump
  • Pea-sized to golf ball-sized swelling
  • Yellow or whitish pus in the center of the swelling
  • One or more points or "heads" on the swelling
  • Oozing or crusting of the swelling
  • Less commonly: fever, fatigue, nausea

If recognized and treated correctly, boils cause little to no health risk. However, if not treated, boils can recur, cause scarring, and transfer infection to other areas of the body.