Carbuncle : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : Skin infection – staphylococcal, Infection – skin – staph, Staph skin infection, Carbunculosis

Definition

A carbuncle is a skin infection that often involves a group of hair follicles. The infected material forms a lump, called mass, which occurs deep in the skin.

When you have more than one carbuncle, the condition is called carbunculosis.

See also: Skin lesion

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Most carbuncles are caused by the bacteria staphylococcus aureus. The infection is contagious and may spread to other areas of the body or other people.

A carbuncle is made up of several skin boils (furuncles). The infected mass is filled with fluid, pus, and dead tissue. Fluid may drain out of the carbuncle, but sometimes the mass is so deep that it cannot drain on its own.

Carbuncles may develop anywhere, but they are most common on the back and the nape of the neck. Men get carbuncles more often than women.

Because the condition is contagious, several family members may develop carbuncles at the same time. Often, the direct cause of a carbuncle cannot be determined.

Things that make carbuncle infections more likely include:

  • Friction from clothing or shaving
  • Poor hygiene
  • Poor overall health

Persons with diabetes, dermatitis, and weakened immune systems are more likely to develop staph infections.

Pictures & Images

Skin layers

The skin is the largest organ of the body. The skin and its derivatives (hair, nails, sweat and oil glands) make up the integumentary system. One of the main functions of the skin is protection. It protects the body from external factors such as bacteria, chemicals, and temperature. The skin contains secretions that can kill bacteria and the pigment melanin provides a chemical pigment defense against ultraviolet light that can damage skin cells. Another important function of the skin is body temperature regulation. When the skin is exposed to a cold temperature, the blood vessels in the dermis constrict. This allows the blood which is warm, to bypass the skin. The skin then becomes the temperature of the cold it is exposed to. Body heat is conserved since the blood vessels are not diverting heat to the skin anymore. Among its many functions the skin is an incredible organ always protecting the body from external agents.


Review Date : 4/12/2007
Reviewed By : Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Associate, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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