Lymphedema People Logo


Furuncles are actually commonly called boils. These are infections involving hair follicles and may include adjacent subcutaneous tissue. They are red, painful hot and filled with pus. Generally these localized infections are caused by staph aureus but can be caused by other bacteria or fungi. They can be either single or can appear in clusters anywhere on the skin.

It is important for the lymphedema patient not to squeeze or pick at a furuncle.  The may lead to the spread of infection and can develop into erysipelas, cellulitis or lymphangitis.


Red tender inflammed spots

Pus filled

Painful or tender due to the infection.

According to Hopkins:

Differs from folliculitis which remains superficial, localized to epidermis and centered about hair follicles.


Diagnosis is generally done from simple physical examination.  Although, culture and sensitivity testing may be done, it is usually not  needed.


Lymphedema patients must remember that the lymphedema limb is immunocompromised, so with any infection, even a furuncle, there is a serious possibility of the infection spreading and/or becoming serious.  Therefore, furuncles require proper care,  treatment and prevention.  

Possible complications of furuncles can include spread of infection to other parts of the body, abscess of kidneys or other body organs,  endocarditis, abscess formation and septic foci, sepsis. Other complications can include osteomyelitis, brain infection, spinal cord infection and there is risk of it becoming cellulitis, lymphangitis or turning into sepsis.


Generally, furuncles will heal by themselves.  For more serious or deeper ones, surgical drainage may be required based upon the longevity and severity of the furuncle. 

There is disagreement on the value of using topical antibiotics ointments, once the furuncle has actually formed as the infection is under the surface of the skin.

Oral antibiotics may be prescribed for more serious furuncles or for patients who are immunocompromised.  These antibiotics may include trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, levofloxacin and/or moxifloxacin.

Groups of Individuals at Risk

As  people with lymphedema, we are very at risk for any type of infection, including furuncles.  Other groups include:


There are a number of steps you can undertake to lesson your risks of developing a furncle, these include:



Furuncles are skin abscesses caused by staphylococcal infection, which involve a hair follicle and surrounding tissue. Carbuncles are clusters of furuncles connected subcutaneously, causing deeper suppuration and scarring. They are smaller and more superficial than subcutaneous abscesses (see Bacterial Skin Infections: Cutaneous Abscess). Diagnosis is by appearance. Treatment is warm compresses and often oral antistaphylococcal antibiotics.

Both furuncles and carbuncles may affect healthy young people but are more common in the obese, the immunocompromised (including those with neutrophil defects), the elderly, and possibly those with diabetes. Clustered cases may occur among those living in crowded quarters with relatively poor hygiene or among contacts of patients infected with virulent strains. Predisposing factors include bacterial colonization of skin or nares, hot and humid climates, and occlusion or abnormal follicular anatomy (eg, comedones in acne). 

Furuncles are common on the neck, breasts, face, and buttocks. They are uncomfortable and may be painful when closely attached to underlying structures (eg, on the nose, ear, or fingers). Appearance is a nodule or pustule that discharges necrotic tissue and sanguineous pus. Carbuncles may be accompanied by fever and prostration.

Diagnosis is by examination. Material for culture should be obtained from patients with single furuncles on the nose or central face, from patients with multiple furuncles, and from immunosuppressed patients.

Treatment of a single lesion is intermittent hot compresses to allow it to point and drain spontaneously. A patient with a furuncle in the nose or central facial area or with multiple furuncles or carbuncles is given a penicillinase-resistant beta-lactam (dicloxacillin or cephlalexin 250 to 500 mg po qid. Use of initial empiric therapy against MRSA is not typically advised unless there is compelling clinical evidence (eg, contact with a documented case or outbreak; high culture-documented prevalence in a practice area). If resistant strains or complicated infection is clinically suspected, alternate empiric choices include trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, levofloxacin and moxifloxacin. Systemic antibiotics are also needed for larger lesions, lesions that do not respond to topical care, evidence of expanding cellulitis, immunocompromised patients, and patients at risk of endocarditis.
Systemic antibiotics are also needed for larger lesions, lesions that do not respond to topical care, evidence of expanding cellulitis, immunocompromised patients, and patients at risk of endocarditis.

Incision and drainage are occasionally necessary and are indicated to speed resolution when the furuncle or carbuncle is fluctuant.

Furuncles frequently recur and can be prevented by applying of liquid soap containing either chlorhexidine gluconate with isopropyl alcohol or 2 to 3% chloroxylenol by giving maintenance antibiotics over 1 to 2 mo. Patients with recurrent furunculosis should be treated for predisposing factors such as obesity, diabetes, occupational or industrial exposure to inciting factors, and nasal carriage of Staphylococcus aureus or methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) colonization.

Last full review/revision October 2007 by A. Damian Dhar, MD

Content last modified October 2007




Paul Auwaerter, M.D. and Ciro R. Martins, M.D. 





General Management / Topical Care

Systemic Therapy--adult

Recurrent Furunculosis


John Hopkins


External Links







Furuncles and carbuncles

Skin abscesses, furuncles, and carbuncles


Diagnostic Images





Diagnostic Codes and External Resources

L02 Cutaneous abscess, furuncle and carbuncle
Includes: boil
Excludes: anal and rectal regions ( K61.- )
genital organs (external):
· female ( N76.4 )
· male ( N48.2 , N49.- )
L02.0 Cutaneous abscess, furuncle and carbuncle of face
Excludes: ear, external ( H60.0 )
eyelid ( H00.0 )
head [any part, except face] ( L02.8 )
· gland ( H04.0 )
· passages ( H04.3 )
mouth ( K12.2 )
nose ( J34.0 )
orbit ( H05.0 )
submandibular ( K12.2 )
L02.1 Cutaneous abscess, furuncle and carbuncle of neck
L02.2 Cutaneous abscess, furuncle and carbuncle of trunk
Abdominal wall
Back [any part, except buttock]
Chest wall
Excludes: breast ( N61 )
hip ( L02.4 )
omphalitis of newborn ( P38 )
L02.3 Cutaneous abscess, furuncle and carbuncle of buttock
Gluteal region
Excludes: pilonidal cyst with abscess ( L05.0 )
L02.4 Cutaneous abscess, furuncle and carbuncle of limb
L02.8 Cutaneous abscess, furuncle and carbuncle of other sites
Head [any part, except face]
L02.9 Cutaneous abscess, furuncle and carbuncle, unspecified
Furunculosis NOS

2008 ICD-9-CM Diagnosis 680.9

Carbuncle and furuncle of unspecified site

680.9 also known as:


Related Lymphedema People Medical Blogs and Pages:

Bacterial Infections



MRSA Information

Antibiotic Glossary

Antibiotic Therapy, Types of Antibiotics


Join us as we work for lymphedema patients everywehere:

Advocates for Lymphedema

Dedicated to be an advocacy group for lymphedema patients. Working towards education, legal reform, changing insurance practices, promoting research, reaching for a cure.


Pat O'Connor

Lymphedema People / Advocates for Lymphedema


For information about Lymphedema\

For Information about Lymphedema Complications

For Lymphedema Personal Stories

For information about How to Treat a Lymphedema Wound

For information about Lymphedema Treatment

For information about Exercises for Lymphedema

For information on Infections Associated with Lymphedema

For information on Lymphedema in Children

Lymphedema Glossary


Lymphedema People - Support Groups


Children with Lymphedema

The time has come for families, parents, caregivers to have a support group of their own. Support group for parents, families and caregivers of chilren with lymphedema. Sharing information on coping, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. Sponsored by Lymphedema People.



Lipedema Lipodema Lipoedema

No matter how you spell it, this is another very little understood and totally frustrating conditions out there. This will be a support group for those suffering with lipedema/lipodema. A place for information, sharing experiences, exploring treatment options and coping.

Come join, be a part of the family!




If you are a man with lymphedema; a man with a loved one with lymphedema who you are trying to help and understand come join us and discover what it is to be the master instead of the sufferer of lymphedema.



All About Lymphangiectasia

Support group for parents, patients, children who suffer from all forms of lymphangiectasia. This condition is caused by dilation of the lymphatics. It can affect the intestinal tract, lungs and other critical body areas.



Lymphatic Disorders Support Group @ Yahoo Groups

While we have a number of support groups for lymphedema... there is nothing out there for other lymphatic disorders. Because we have one of the most comprehensive information sites on all lymphatic disorders, I thought perhaps, it is time that one be offered.


Information and support for rare and unusual disorders affecting the lymph system. Includes lymphangiomas, lymphatic malformations, telangiectasia, hennekam's syndrome, distichiasis, Figueroa
syndrome, ptosis syndrome, plus many more. Extensive database of information available through sister site Lymphedema People.



Lymphedema People New Wiki Pages

Have you seen our new “Wiki” pages yet?  Listed below are just a sample of the more than 140 pages now listed in our Wiki section. We are also working on hundred more.  Come and take a stroll! 

Lymphedema Glossary 


Arm Lymphedema 

Leg Lymphedema 

Acute Lymphedema 

The Lymphedema Diet 

Exercises for Lymphedema 

Diuretics are not for Lymphedema 

Lymphedema People Online Support Groups 



Lymphedema and Pain Management 

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) and Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT) 

Infections Associated with Lymphedema 

How to Treat a Lymphedema Wound 

Fungal Infections Associated with Lymphedema 

Lymphedema in Children 


Magnetic Resonance Imaging 

Extraperitoneal para-aortic lymph node dissection (EPLND) 

Axillary node biopsy

Sentinel Node Biopsy

 Small Needle Biopsy - Fine Needle Aspiration 

Magnetic Resonance Imaging 

Lymphedema Gene FOXC2

 Lymphedema Gene VEGFC

 Lymphedema Gene SOX18

 Lymphedema and Pregnancy

Home page: Lymphedema People

Page Updated: Jan. 16, 2012