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Boil vs. Pimple

Boil vs. Pimple Facts

Patient Comments
  • Boils and pimples are types of skin infections. A boil is a pocket of infection in and under the skin. A pimple is a tiny, localized infection, usually of a single oil gland in the skin.
  • Causes for boils include plugged or infected hair follicles, exposure to bacteria, open wounds, skin infections, or skin gland problems.
  • Causes of pimples include blocked pores, overproduction of oils from glands in the skin, and hormone changes.
  • Both boils and pimples appear as red bumps on the skin, but boils usually get larger and have drainage of pus, fever, and pain. Pimples are typically smaller and localized.
  • Treatment for boils include warm compresses, drainage by a physician, antibiotics, and/or surgery.
  • Treatment for pimples involves the application of over-the-counter washes and creams. If acne is severe, prescription medication or other medical treatments may be required.
  • The prognosis for both boils and pimples is good. Most will heal on their own or with at-home or over-the-counter treatments. Boils can become problematic if not treated promptly and properly. Acne may recur and cause permanent scarring and skin discoloration.
  • To prevent boils and acne, practice good hygiene, keep skin clean, avoid contact with others who have skin infections, don't share personal hygiene items, and seek medical care if boils or pimples do not improve or recur with treatment at home.

What Is a Boil?

A boil is a pocket of infection in and under the skin. The medical term for a boil is an abscess. A boil usually starts as a small infection or area of redness in a hair follicle (folliculitis/ingrown hair), skin gland, or small open wound. Over the course of days, a pocket of infection accumulates pus, begins to swell, and scar tissue forms a painful cavity. This cavity expands, and the overlying skin turns red as the boil becomes bigger. Boils are commonly found in skin areas where there are high amounts of bacteria such as skin folds, groin, buttocks, armpits, or inner thighs.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/26/2017

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Boil vs. Pimple:

Boil vs. Pimple - Experience

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Boil vs. Pimple - Treatment

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Boil vs. Pimple - Symptoms and Signs

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There are many home remedies for acne.

Acne Home Remedies

  • Wash once or twice daily with soap and water to remove excess oil from the skin. Avoid scrubbing or using abrasives because this can actually irritate the skin and cause acne to worsen.
  • Over-the-counter acne medications can be used either at bedtime or during the day. Always follow the directions on any acne product. These products generally do not have any beneficial effects on inflammatory lesions, pimples, and are essentially used to prevent the development of new lesions. Therefore they should be applied to all of the skin in affected areas.
  • Many cover-up products are available without a prescription to improve the appearance of blemishes while they have a chance to heal. Most work well and should not worsen acne. If makeup is worn, it should be water-based, and the ingredients of the makeup should list water as a major component.


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