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Infected Pimple

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Infected pimples (also referred to as a boil or carbuncles) are pus filled pimples which are caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. The area surrounding the hair follicles is filled with pus as a result of the bacterial infection. In its initial stages it can be irritation and mildly painful, but after sometime it can become more painful as the pus continues to accumulate [1, 2].


Boils are distinctly different from normal pimples or acne. They are caused by a bacterial infection while pimples and acne are pus filled infections caused by accumulation of oil and dead skin cells. Unlike an infected pimple, they cannot spread from one person to another.

The hair follicles are filled with pus which causes a painful swelling

Figure 1: The hair follicles are filled with pus which causes a painful swelling

Causes

The infection which is caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus can lead to boils for the following reasons.

  • Poor hygiene
  • Poor overall health and immune system.
  • Cuts resulting from friction from clothing and shaving.
  • Acquired from other infected people.

The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus is often present on the skin but remains harmless. The bacteria can enter the body from small cuts on the skin. These small cuts can be as a result of bruises, friction from the clothing, or cuts after shaving.

The infection is quite contagious. This means you can get if you are in contact with other people who happen to have an infected pimple. It is common for an infected person to pass it on to other family members. Doctors may use oral or topical antibiotics to prevent it from spreading to other areas of the body or to other people.

Some people are more susceptible to getting infected due to a weak immune system caused by poor health.  A poor immune system may be as a result of conditions such as obesity, anemia, diabetes or dermatitis. It could also be as a result of poor nutrition. Acne can also increase the risk of getting boils.

Poor hygiene is also a common factor that causes these infections. Excessive sweating facilitates the growth of the bacteria and poor hygiene allows it to grow rapidly [2, 3].

Symptoms

An infected pimple is often painful red bump the size of a pea. The infected region may vary in size and it can become as big as a golf ball especially at the advanced stages before it raptures. Unlike an ordinary pimple it can appear anywhere including the face, buttocks, behind the neck and under the armpit.
Some of the symptoms include:

  • Reddening of the skin around the infected region.
  • A white or yellow spot at the center of the pimple.
  • Oozing of pus from the infected pimple.
  • Spreads to other areas of the body, or joins with other infected pimples.
  • Pimples that grow and increases in size rapidly.

 A white/ yellow spot may be visible at the center of the boil.
Figure 2: A white/ yellow spot may be visible at the center of the boil.

Severe symptoms may include:

  • Unexplained fever.
  • General sense of fatigue.
  • Continues to persist after two weeks.
  • Appears on the face or near the spine

If you experience the severe symptoms listed above, you should see a doctor. These symptoms, especially fever and fatigue, often demand that immediate medical intervention should be sought [4, 5].

Treatment

The boil takes about two weeks. Within this period the boil drains and this is important if the boil is going to be completely healed.  The pus filled pimple is often referred to as a nodule [3]. The nodule is drained after it has completely matured. This way the growth and the bacteria can be removed completely when draining the pus from the infected pimple.

There are several things you can do at home to speed up the healing process and reduce infections.

  • You must not cut or squeeze the boil. This can spread the infection to other parts of the body, or to other people.
  • Using a cloth and warm water, gently press on the infected area to speed up the healing process.
  • Compress the wound with regularly, preferably several times a day, until the infected pimple is healed.
  • Avoid sharing or reusing clothes and towels. Clean clothes and towels using hot water and disinfectant.
  • Clean your hands regularly especially after touching the boil.
  • If you have antibacterial soaps or ointments from the doctor, always use them to clean the infected area.

You may need to visit a medical doctor in situations where the infected pimple recurs. The doctor can perform tests. He may take samples through a blood test to ascertain the strain of bacteria you have. [6]

A doctor will prescribe medication often in the form of antibiotics and antibiotic ointments. This is usually enough to treat even severe cases of boils. Sometimes the doctor may need to perform a surgical procedure. This is done when the doctor has determined the infection has spread to such an extent that it needs to be surgically opened to be completely drained.

Complications

On rare occasions, the Staphylococcus aureus can find its way into the bloodstream and cause further complications to other part of the body. As a result the body can become susceptible to skin infections (impetigo), pus may develop inside the brain (brain abscess), or infection of the joint (septic arthritis), amongst other conditions.

These secondary infections are quite rare, but in the event that they occur they will need a more serious medical intervention [8].

Another common complication is sepsis. Sepsis is where the body has a severe response to an infection. It is treated through an antibiotic and may require the infected person to be admitted to hospital [9].

Staphylococcus aureus is from a group of bacteria that often show resistance to antibiotics. This can cause the infection to recur and cause other complications. A doctor can examine the infection by using a culture, where he may try to isolate the particular strain and whether it is resistant to antibiotics [10].

Prevention

You can keep infected pimples at bay by doing the following things.

  • Good nutrition and proper exercise to improve the body’s immune system.
  • Clean and dress bruises and wounds.
  • Maintain high standards of cleanliness.

References:

  1. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001474.htm
  2. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/ss/slideshow-boils
  3. http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/11040/1/Causes-and-Cures-of-Skin-Boils.html
  4. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/boils-and-carbuncles/basics/symptoms/con-20024235
  5. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/boils/Pages/Introduction.aspx
  6. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/boils
  7. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/staphylococcus/page5_em.htm
  8. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Boils/Pages/Complications.aspx
  9. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000666.htm
  10. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/mrsa_infection/article_em.htm

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