Cystic Acne - A Boil By Another Name

Acne Is A Boil?

Cystic acne, or cystic boils, is a particularly severe form of acne, the result of bacterial infection that enters the body through infected hair follicles and is marked by swollen, painful, pus-filled boils on the skin.  The bacteria at fault for this infection are generally staphylococcus aureus.  As the hair follicle becomes infected and fills with white cells to fight the infections, they become what are commonly called pimples.  Furuncles - single boils, as well as carbuncles, multiple boils, form abscesses deep below the skin and can cause severe scarring in addition to looking unsightly and being uncomfortable and painful.

What Causes Them and Why Me?

Many things can be the source of a boil - from slivers of wood, to plugged oil pores.  For many people, young people in particular, pore blockage is caused by the over-production of oils for the skin resulting in an inflammation of hair follicles and ultimately, skin boils - or acne.  Generally, over time, acne resolves itself, however cystic acne, if left untreated, can leave scars and pits in the skin.

Cystic boils are not only common to the face and neck, but can appear on other areas of the body.  Because they are contagious, it is important to wash hands and keep the areas where the rashes of boils are, clean and treated with the appropriate antibiotic, if necessary.  An acne boil, or skin abscess, as it is often referred to, usually starts as an area which feels tender to the touch and is red in color.  After a period of about a week, the area becomes firm and hard to the touch.  Eventually, the center of the area softens and fills with pus, forming a head which can be surgically opened or will drain naturally and spontaneously through the surface of the skin.

What Do I Do?

If the acne is severe, the individual may want to visit a dermatologist and receive professional treatment for the situation.  The "at home" treatment can begin as soon as an acne boil is noticed, with the application of heat to the affected area.  This helps the white blood cells to come to the surface to fight the infection.  Once the affected area has formed a head, it can be ready to drain.  It can be lanced or may drain on its own - either way, once the pressure of the inflammation has drained off, relief is immediate.  Antibiotics can be used to eliminate any accompanying bacterial infection.

As with any type of boil, it is important to keep the area clean and to avoid touching the area as that will spread the infection.