FOLLICULITIS, FURUNCULOSIS, CARBUNCLES (INFLAMED FOLLICLES)

Inflamed follicles result from blockage or infection. Dead skin cells or ingrown hairs may cause occlusion of a hair follicle making it swell and turn red. Or, bacteria (usually some form of Staphylococcus aureus) may infiltrate the follicles and create inflammation. This rash usually appears as red bumps or whitish pustules on the back, arms, and legs. The rash is often itchy and tender and may cause pain.

Folliculitis is the mildest form of this skin condition and is characterized by inflammation without significant infection. It usually clears within a few days without intervention. This type of rash often follows hot tub use and appears where the bathing suit comes in contact with skin. Friction from clothing, excessive sweating, and many other environmental factors can cause follicle inflammation. Some cases of folliculitis are caused by fungal rather than bacterial infection. If your rash does not clear up or if it gets worse, see a dermatologist to determine whether an anti-bacterial or anti-fungal agent is the appropriate treatment.

Furunculosis is a more severe case of follicle inflammation. The pustules may be larger and more numerous. With carbuncles, a large area of inflammation and infection is involved. These clusters of boils are often very painful and should be treated immediately. This is especially important for preventing Staph infection from spreading internally


Potential Treatments

Mild to moderate cases of follicle inflammation are generally treated with one or more of the following:

  • Warm compresses
  • Creams that relieve itching
  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Salicylic acid
  • Antibiotic washes
  • Sodium sulfacetamide products

For moderate to severe follicle inflammation with bacterial infection present, you may also be prescribed an oral antibiotic. Large boils may need to be lanced and drained. This approach helps relieve pain, reduce scarring, and speed healing.

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