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Armpit boil (furuncle): Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Cost

Last Updated: Jun 28, 2023

What is Armpit boil (furuncle)?

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A furuncle, also termed as an armpit boil, is a localised infection deep inside the skin. It is caused by bacteria and appears as a red, swollen lump that may be tender, warm to the touch, and filled with pus.

Types of Armpit boil (furuncle):

Armpit boil (also called a furuncle) can be classified into several types:-

  • Superficial furuncle: This type of boil usually affects the hair follicles and is most common among people with weak immune systems. It typically appears as a red bump filled with pus, often accompanied by swelling and tenderness.
  • Carbuncle: This is another type of boil but differs from a superficial furuncle in that it typically involves several adjacent hair follicles. It may also produce swelling surrounding the afflicted region and is more painful than superficial furuncles.
  • Cystic Armpit Boil: This type of boil occurs when bacteria enters an infected area, spreads through the skin, and produces drainage or pus in the armpit area. They can be large in size and require professional medical attention to correctly diagnose, treat, and prevent them from recurring in the future.

What causes Armpit boil (furuncle)?

  • Armpit boils, or furuncles, are typically caused by a bacterial infection of the hair follicles.
  • Bacterial infections can be caused by poor hygiene, friction from underarm clothing, blocked ducts in the sebaceous glands or an uncontrolled diabetic condition.
  • Certain medical conditions can increase a person’s risk of developing an armpit boil, such as diabetes or immunosuppression due to cancer or HIV/AIDS.
  • Poor nutrition and vitamin deficiency can also lead to armpit furunculosis.

What are the symptoms of Armpit boil (furuncle)?

  • A firm, painful boil in the armpit.
  • Swelling, tenderness, and redness of the skin surrounding the region.
  • Pus-filled head on top of the boil.
  • Development of a fever and general feeling of being unwell.


How can you prevent Armpit boil (furuncle)?

  • Keep the armpit area dry and clean: Wash the armpit area with soap and water daily, dry the area thoroughly with a clean towel.
  • Wear loose-fitting natural-fiber clothes: Synthetic materials may raise the risk of infection by trapping moisture.
  • Avoid shaving, plucking, or waxing underarm hair: Removing hair increases chances of infection.
  • Use an antibacterial powder or cream on the affected area: This can help reduce moisture in the skin folds and prevent further infections.

Armpit boil (furuncle) - Diagnosis and Tests

  • Physical examination: The diagnosis for an armpit boil (also known as a furuncle) is typically made through a physical examination of the area by a healthcare provider. The provider may swab the area and examine the sample under a microscope in order to confirm the presence of bacteria.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests performed in the evaluation of a person with a furuncle, or 'boil,' are typically used to look for signs of infection or inflammation. This might include a complete blood count (CBC), an erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), and other tests.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic imaging method that employs powerful magnetic fields, radio waves, and computer technology to generate detailed pictures of the organs and structures of the human body. In the case of an armpit boil (furuncle), MRI can be used to help diagnose the condition by providing more detailed information than other imaging modalities such as X-rays or ultrasound.
  • Ultrasound: Ultrasound can be used to diagnose armpit boils (furuncles) by creating images of the affected area and allowing doctors to more accurately assess the size, location and severity of the boil.
  • Skin cultures: Skin cultures are used to detect the presence of bacteria on the skin and can help to determine the cause of a lesion such as an armpit boil (furuncle). A swab is obtained from the afflicted region and submitted to a lab for analysis.

What are possible complications of Armpit boil (furuncle)?

  • Cellulitis: A bacterial infection involving the deeper layers of skin and fatty tissue.
  • Septic arthritis: Invasion of the joints and surrounding tissues by microbes, leading to joint inflammation and pain.
  • Lymphadenitis: Inflammation of the lymph nodes in the armpit that is caused by a bacterial infection and results in redness and swelling.
  • Deep abscesses: Involvement of deeper tissue layers, with a collection of pus which may require surgery to remove them if they cannot be treated with antibiotics alone.
  • Blood poisoning (sepsis): A severe reaction by the body to bacterial toxins in your bloodstream potentially leading to organ damage and death.

Home Remedies for Armpit boil (furuncle)

  • Applying Turmeric paste: Make a paste with turmeric, water and mustard oil, and apply at the affected area.
  • Rubbing garlic peels: Rub thin layers of garlic peels to the affected area several times a day.
  • Applying neem leaves paste: Make a neem leaves paste along with some turmeric powder and apply it to the armpit boil for fast relief from pain.
  • Drinking bitter gourd juice: Drinking bitter gourd juice helps in reducing boils by flushing out toxins from the body.
  • Include supportive foods in diet: Make sure to include cooling vegetables like cucumber, bottle gourd and leafy greens in your diet as they are antibacterial foods that help reduce inflammation and boost immunity.

What to eat in Armpit boil (furuncle)?

  • Choose foods that are packed with nutrients: Eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals is important for speeding up the healing process. Eat lots of fruits, veggies, healthy grains, lean proteins, and low-fat milk products.
  • Eat antioxidant-rich foods: Fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants that minimise inflammation during armpit boil healing. Good sources include cherries, blueberries, kale, spinach, and broccoli.
  • Choose healthy fats: Omega-3 fatty acids, that can be found in fish oil supplements or fatty seafood like salmon, can help reduce the inflammation produced by armpit boils.
  • Hydrate: Drinking plenty of fluids helps to flush out toxins from the body which can slow down the recovery time from an armpit boil.

What not to eat in Armpit boil (furuncle)?

  • Avoid fried or processed foods that contain unhealthy saturated or trans fats, such as fries, chips, and certain packaged snacks.
  • Reduce your intake of high-sugar food and drinks.
  • Avoid spicy or extremely salty foods that may irritate your boil more.
  • Don't eat any dairy products including cheese, butter and milk as they can make the associated itching worse.
  • Avoid foods with hard-to-digest proteins like too much red meat which can increase inflammation in body parts such as the armpit area.

Armpit boil (furuncle) Treatment

  • Keep the area clean and dry: Make sure that your armpit is kept clean and dry at all times—wiping away any sweat or moisture that accumulates throughout the day.
  • Topical creams: The use of topical antibiotics or antiseptics helps alleviate pain and decrease inflammation in the afflicted region.
  • Warm compress: Apply a warm compress directly to the boil several times a day to help reduce pain and swelling.
  • Incision and drainage: This surgical procedure involves using a small scalpel or needle to open the boil and drain the accumulated pus.
  • Resection: In some cases, if the infection has spread widely, removal of part of the infected tissue may be necessary.

Which doctor to consult for Armpit boil (furuncle)?

People with armpit boils should consult either their primary care physician or a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Which are the best medicines for Armpit boil (furuncle)?

  • Antibiotics: antibiotics such as clindamycin, cephalexin and dicloxacillin are typically prescribed to treat armpit boils.
  • Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, may help lessen the discomfort and swelling linked with armpit boils.
  • Topical creams: Topical antibiotics may also be used to treat localised infections caused by armpit boils.
  • Antibacterial soaps:Using an antibacterial soap or cleanser daily can help reduce the risk of developing boils in the first place.

How long does it take to recover from Armpit boil (furuncle)?

The recovery time for an armpit boil (furuncle) depends on several factors, including the size and depth of the lesion, and whether any underlying medical conditions require treatment. Generally, boils in the armpit area may take between 7-14 days to fully heal.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

No, the outcomes of armpit boil (furuncle) treatment are not everlasting. Treatment consists of either taking antibiotics, using warm compresses, and/or draining the boil.

These treatments will reduce the size and pain of a boil, but treatment is only effective in the short-term and does not guarantee complete healing. Relapse may occur as bacteria can linger in hair follicles or sweat glands, making it prone to return after treatment.

What are post-treatment guidelines?

  • Redness, swelling and warmth at the site of incision should be monitored and reported to your doctor if they get worse or persistent.
  • Use a soft gauze or cloth when cleaning the wound to avoid further irritation.
  • An over-the-counter pain medication can be taken as needed for any discomfort, although prescription medications may also be necessary in some cases.
  • Monitor for any signs of infection such as redness and discharge from the wound area, as well as fever and chills that might accompany a more serious infection.
  • Keep the wound covered with a sterile bandage until healing is complete and consult with your doctor regarding any specific recommendations for activity levels during recovery time to ensure optimal healing rates.

What is the cost of Armpit boil (furuncle) treatments in India?

Generally, medications used to treat furuncles are inexpensive, while more advanced treatments may involve additional charges. For example, surgical drainage of an abscess or antibiotic injections can cost between 800-2,000 INR. Antibiotics for oral consumption may cost less than 500 INR. In some cases, laser treatments are also required and these can range from 20-30 thousand INR or higher.

What are side-effects of Armpit boil (furuncle) treatments?

  • Excessive pain: Treatment may cause discomfort and some pain while additional medications may be necessary to reduce discomfort.
  • Scarring: Depending on the treatment, scarring may occur which can be in the form of permanent pits or marks on the skin.
  • Swelling: Swelling at the area of treatment is normal owing to infection-induced inflammation.
  • Risk of infection: There is a risk of spreading infection from one area to another if not treated properly and hygienically with antibiotics or other forms of medication prescribed by a doctor.
  • Nerve damage: Depending on the size and location of the boil, there is risk for nerve damage that could cause changes in sensation or movement near the infected area.

Armpit boil (furuncle) - Outlook/ Prognosis

If you are experiencing armpit boil symptoms, you should see a doctor since they may lead to problems such as 'cellulitis, septic arthritis, and deep abscesses,' the treatment for which can vary from a few months to years according to the extent of the situation.

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Written ByDrx Hina FirdousPhD (Pharmacology) Pursuing, M.Pharma (Pharmacology), B.Pharma - Certificate in Nutrition and Child CarePharmacology
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Reviewed ByDr. Bhupindera Jaswant SinghMD - Consultant PhysicianGeneral Physician
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