Facts You Should Know About Boils and Carbuncles

Information about boils and carbuncles are just taken for granted. But these skin diseases have a long history in times past, and peering into this may help us understand why and how we should care for ourselves against these diseases.


Boils have a long history way back in Bible times. The most remarkable of all is the ten plagues in the history of Egypt. Because of Pharaoh’s obstinate heart, he doesn’t want to release the Israelite slaves.  So Jehovah God gave them a sixth blow of the plague against all Egyptians and their beasts were plagued by painful “boils with blisters”, so recorded at Exodus 9:8-11.

According to Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1, a Bible encyclopedia, boil is “generally, a furuncle, a localized, painful swelling of the skin resulting, not from a previous wound, but from infection caused by bacteria that invade hair follicles or sweat or sebaceous glands; in Hebrew, shechin′. Beginning with a small red swelling, the boil eventually discharges some pus and, subsequently, its hard center core. At times, a number of boils develop in an affected area.”   

Initially, the skin turns into shiny red in the affected area of the infection, and a soft bump develops. After a few days, it starts turning white as pus gather under the skin. Now, take note of these facts:

  • Most boils appear on the face, neck, armpits, shoulders, and buttocks, as these areas are mostly covered by the hair follicles. It forms even in the eyelid, and when this happens, the eyelid feels itchy and sore. (This is not the same with sore eyes) When one forms on the eyelid, it is called a stye or hordeolum (pronounced: hore-dee-oh-lum).  It develops when glands connected to the base of the eyelash become swollen and irritated. A person with a stye will usually notice a red, warm, uncomfortable, and sometimes painful swelling near the edge of the eyelid. Most styes, on the other hand, go away on their own within several days.

  • It is considered a carbuncle if the boils appear in a group; sometimes medical attention is crucial in order to stop the spread of infection.


A ‘carbuncle’ is more dangerous than a furuncle, covers a larger area like the size of a pea or as big as golf ball, sometimes produces greater pain, and may be attended by such symptoms as headache, fever, and prostration. “It is sometimes fatal,” says the Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1.  The infection is usually caused by bacteria most commonly Staphylococcus aureus.  As the infection reaches its peak, it swells a lot, and the color turns out from shiny red to shiny white lump.  This indicates that the infection is ripe and is now easy to give a treatment.  The mass of the lump is filled with fluid, pus, bacteria and dead tissue so the infection is usually contagious and may spread to other areas of the body or other people.  Usually “carbuncle may develop anywhere, but they are most common on the back and the nape of the neck, and men get infection more often than women”, says Wikipedia online. Things that make carbuncle infections more likely include:

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