Boils

Originally Published: April 18, 1995 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: August 13, 2010
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Alice,

I have heard that boils can be caused by a mineral or vitamin deficiency. Is this true? Secondly, I have had a boil for approximately six years. It will go away for a few months but soon return. I've tried a variety of drawing salves and these seem to help, but only temporarily. What should I do?

—Plagued

Dear Plagued,

Even biblical texts make reference to the plague of boils! A boil is an inflamed, pus-filled area of the skin usually caused by a bacterial infection. Boils commonly appear as infected hair follicles, and are usually found on the back of the neck and in the armpit, groin, and other moist areas. No direct connection exists between mineral or vitamin deficiency and the etiology of boils; however, having an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals does keep your vital body functions in good working order, promoting a stronger immune system to fight bacterial infections.

A boil appears initially as a red, painful lump which eventually swells, fills with pus, and has a yellowish tip. Boils may recur in people with limited resistance to bacterial infection or in people with diabetes.

To treat your boil, begin by applying hot compresses on the affected area to reduce discomfort and promote healing. If the boil is large or painful, a health care provider may prescribe an antibiotic or may open up the boil with a sterile needle to drain the pus from the site. Bursting a boil on your own is not recommended as this could spread the infection. Check with your health care provider about the boil and see which manner of treatment s/he recommends for your recurring dilemma. If you're at Columbia, you can make an appointment at Primary Care Medical Services by logging on to Open Communicator or calling X4-2284.

Take care of those boils to help prevent them from reaching biblical proportions!

Alice