In today's unpredictable world, stress and chaos are bound to arise. When stress raises its unappealing head, both emotional and physical changes can occur. Of those uncomfortable changes, boils (skin abscesses), can appear and be very annoying.
About Stress-Related Boils
A boil, medically known as a furuncle, is an infection that begins in an enclosed, superficial bodily orifice, such as an oil gland or hair follicle. It begins as a tender, inflamed area. After about a week, it becomes a pus-filled lump or bump. WebMD states the most common area for boils to occur is the face, neck, armpits, shoulders, and buttocks. When many form together, it is referred to as a carbuncle.
Boils occur when bacteria becomes trapped in a follicle or gland. The body naturally has bacteria on the outer surface, but healthy skin keeps bacteria separated from the internal environment of the body. The bacteria can enter the body through a disturbance in the skin, such as a scratch, and continues to replicate if the immune system is unable to counteract the effects immediately.
Emotions like stress can potentially suppress the immune system according to a meta-analysis of 30 years of data. Stress induces hormonal changes in the body, causing the skin to be more sensitive and reactive. According to Harvard Health, boils can be especially noted in immunocompromised populations and are commonly caused by staph aureus, which is found naturally on the skin. Likewise, those with recurrent ingrown hairs are prone to stress boils. If the infection is very prominent, WebMD conveys infection and swollen lymph nodes can ensue.
Once a stress boil appears, home treatment options are simple enough unless the bacterial infection is highly elevated. Stress boils usually resolve on their own with simple intervention, and the prognosis is good. However, when starting any new medical treatment regimen, always check with a medical expert before taking over-the-counter medications.
Calm down. Alleviate factors that are causing stressful situations in day-to-day activities. Incorporate stress management activities like deep breathing exercises or meditation that integrate components of peace and pleasantry into life.
Use Warm Compresses
Dr. Melissa Stoppler, MD suggests warm compresses or soaks several times a day to increase circulation and bring healing cells to the area of the boil. Do not poke or press with a sharp object for risk of further transferring more bacteria.
Once the boil comes to a head, it is usually ready to drain. Smaller boils usually drain on their own from the warm compresses, and pain relief ensues from the release of the pressure. For larger boils, medical professional lancing/draining maybe indicated as again noted by Dr. Stoppler. The larger boils may contain many areas of pus that need to be lanced.
When the stress boil is accompanied by additional surrounding skin infection and a temperature, a physician may prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics work in conjunction with the lancing of the lesion. A topical antibiotic ointment may also be prescribed to address the superficial layers of skin. Boils located on the face, spine, groin, or in the rectum may also require medical attention.
Usually, the pain accompanying the stress boils and the surrounding areas come from the pressure build up of the pus underneath. With smaller boils, the warm compresses usually lead to drainage, which relieves pressure. The professional lancing of larger boils also relieves pain from pressure. Ultimately, until the necessary lancing takes place, pressure from the pus build-up can be addressed with the usual preferred over-the- counter drug of choice, such as anti-inflammatories or a numbing topical.
Avoiding Stress Boils
In both the regular population and in immunocompromised patients, one can take basic steps to reduce stress boils. Keep bacteria under control through hand and skin washing, keeping cuts covered, and not exchanging personal items for use, such as razors and towels, notes Mayo Clinic. Reducing stress is also important, as is proper diagnosis and treatment of underlying immunosuppressive conditions, such as diabetes and cancer.
Keep Calm and Stay Clean
Though furuncles are common, stress-induced boils and the underlying causes can be particularly annoying and uncomfortable. Reducing daily stressors, keeping clean healthy skin, and overall maintaining an immune system that is healthy as possible will reduce the chances of reoccurrence of this nuisance condition.