Carbuncles are the name given to a cluster of interconnecting boils that cause an infection that spreads underneath the skin. The infectious organism is usually Staphyloccus aureus. Carbuncles are similar to boils, but develop more slowly and are localized over a larger area. Carbuncles occur more frequently in men than in women, primarily at the nape of the neck, buttocks, or thighs.
They are extremely painful, swollen, and red, and may be accompanied by general feelings of fatigue, debilitation, and fever. A great amount of pus is usually also associated with carbuncles, which can be slow to heal and can cause scarring.
Carbuncles are very contagious, and should be cultured to identify the infectious organism. Antibiotics may be needed to achieve complete healing. This is especially true of both carbuncles and boils in the nose, as the infection can easily spread to the brain.
Even though they can occur in very healthy people, carbuncles are often associated with diabetes mellitus and other debilitating chronic disease conditions, and also occur more frequently in the elderly.