Boil differential diagnosis

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Yamuna Kondapally, M.B.B.S[2]


Boil (furuncle) must be differentiated from other common diseases that cause tender swelling or a reddened lump filled with pus such as cystic acne, hydradrenitis suppurativa, and pilonidal cyst.[1]

Differentiating Boil(furuncle) from Other Diseases

Boils must be differentiated from:[1]

Disease Findings
Cystic acne Presents with tender cystic pustules usually confined to the face and trunk, where there are higher concentration of sebaceous glands.
Hydradrenitis suppurativa Presents as painful suppurative lesions in the axillary, genital and perianal areas, where there are higher concentration of apocrine glands. Chronic disease may cause irregular sinus tracts and scarring. Diagnosis is primarily clinical based on distribution, characteristic lesions and recurrence.
Pilonidal cyst The cyst usually contains skin and hair debris, which if gets infected results in painful pus filled nodule at the bottom of tail bone (coccyx). Diagnosis is based on physical examination.
Others Anthrax, Herpetic whitlow, Cellulitis, Furuncular myasis, Impetigo herpitiformis, SAPHO syndrome, Interleukin 1 receptor antagonist deficiency, sporotrichosis and Eosinophilic pustular folliculitis can produce signs and symptoms that may be confused with boils(furuncles).


  1. 1.0 1.1 Boil(furuncle)(2016). Accessed on August 9, 2016.

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