Skin Boils and Other Infections Gallery

Pictures of Skin Boils from MRSA and Other Infections

Skin boils are an infection that starts around a hair follicle or oil gland. They are usually caused by Staphylococcus bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), but may be due to other infectious agents. MRSA can't be identified simply by looking at it. Many skin infections look similar. These pictures of skin boils illustrate the various ways MRSA and other infections on the skin can look.

Skin boils are often misidentified as a bug or spider bite. You may see pictures here that also appear in the spider bite picture gallery because the victim originally thought the boil came from a spider bite. Unless you catch a spider in the act of biting, chances are the boil is caused by some type of infection.


MRSA Blister on Toe

MRSA picture
Victim Thought She had Been Bitten by a Spider. (c) Bridget Wuerdeman

Victim Bridget thought this blister was from a spider bite until the doctor told her it was methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Bridget submitted this picture so others could see what skin infections look like and learn how important it is to see a doctor when blisters or lesions continue to get worse.

Bridget was given antibiotics to kill the infection. Hopefully, she took all the antibiotics she was prescribed. If we don't complete all the antibiotics as directed, we can encourage the growth of germs like MRSA that are resistant to certain antibiotics.

Despite her physician telling her not to, Bridget popped the blister.

Cutting a MRSA infection open to drain it should only be done by a health care professional using a sterile technique to avoid spreading the MRSA or introducing another infection.


MRSA Blister Popped

MRSA picture
Even Though the Doctor Said Not to, Victim Popped the MRSA Blister. (c) Bridget Wuerdeman

What Bridget thought was a spider bite turned out to be methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). A painful blister developed on her toes that wasn't healing on its own. Bridget was prescribed antibiotics to kill the infection.

Bridget says she popped the blister after three days because she couldn't take the pain and pressure. She was advised not to by her physician, but did anyway.

I certainly don't recommend going against a doctor's advice; that's the reason we go to the doctor in the first place. Bridget could have introduced another infection into the lesion and made her foot worse. She could also have encouraged the MRSA to migrate to other parts of her body.



Impetigo is a Bacterial Infection of the Skin. Image courtesy of CDC

Impetigo is a bacterial infection of the skin that is pretty common in kids (in fact, I hear some folks incorrectly pronounce it infantigo). It comes from either Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria.

Impetigo is easily treated, doesn't cause a fever and your doctor will most likely be able to identify it just by looking at it. If he or she isn't sure, your doctor can test the lesions to see if it is impetigo or not.

Although this isn't MRSA, notice how it looks very similar to other skin infections. Also, note how similar these lesions look to the types of blisters and skin sores that people often associate with spider bites.


MRSA Lesion on Inmate's Arm

MRSA picture
MRSA Is All Too Common in Prisons, Barracks and Hospitals Picture of MRSA infection found on a prison inmate in 2005. Image courtesy of CDC/Bruno Coignard, M.D.; Jeff Hageman, M.H.S.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can't be identified simply by looking at it.

Blisters and boils are the most common forms of MRSA infections on the skin. Commonly mistaken as spider bites—even by physicians—these staph infections are highly resistant to many antibiotics.

This MRSA infection is draining pus. Physicians will often cut into an MRSA infection to drain it. This should only be done by a health care professional. It requires sterile technique and there is a risk of spreading the MRSA infection if it is not done correctly.


MRSA Boil on Inmate's Arm

MRSA picture
MRSA Infections are All Too Common in Prisons, Barracks and Hospitals Picture of MRSA infection on an inmate in 2005. Image courtesy of CDC/Bruno Coignard, M.D.; Jeff Hageman, M.H.S.

MRSA infections spread easily through crowded conditions like those in prisons and military barracks. While there's no difference in the actual bacteria, MRSA infections that spread through hospitals and nursing homes are referred to as hospital-acquired MRSA (HA-MRSA). MRSA infections that come from other areas—including prisons, homes and barracks—are known as community-acquired MRSA (CA-MRSA).

Even though MRSA most often shows up as blisters or boils, not all blisters or boils are from MRSA. Other forms of Staphylococcus aureus, as well as group A Streptococcus bacteria, cause skin infections that look very similar. Whether it's a staph infection, a strep infection or MRSA, if the boil develops and doesn't go away in a few days, see a doctor.


Skin Boil in Zambia

This reader was concerned his boil came from a spider:

It started small -- blister like (yellow white) -- after a few hours the blisters was surrounded by reddish and swollen flesh, which was hard when you touched it. This area just increased in everything, a swollen reddish area and even the small blister became more yellow and bigger.

He saw a doctor in Zambia, who lanced and drained his boil. He felt this common boil treatment made it worse:

The local doctor in Mansa, Zambia diagnosed this to be a BOIL and that it should be cut and pushed out! I believe this action just aggravated the sore, (I don't know what should have been done) but this sore then properly increased in everything!


Swollen Face

Swollen face before and after antibiotics
Unknown Infection Leaves Face Swollen but Responds to Antibiotics. (c) Tami Berg

Tami Berg submitted these pictures of an infection in her face that had been bothering her since she visited a family member in the hospital. Her doctor suggested that she may have acquired the infection in the hospital -- nasty places those hospitals.

Tami's swelling progressed quickly over a 3 day period. She went to the doc on day 1 and received augmentin, an oral antibiotic. It wasn't working.

On the third day of swelling (the picture on the left) Tami went to the doctor again. By now the swelling had progressed so much her general practitioner sent her to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. She was given an injection of Rocephin.

The picture on the right was taken the same day as the other picture, but 4 hours after the Rocephin injection.

Tami originally thought the pain and irritation she was feeling came from a pimple. It wasn't until the swelling made her look "like a Who from Whoville" that she sought help from her doctor. Swelling from infections like this can put pressure on important structures like nerves and airways, so when the swelling gets bad enough it's time to go to the doc.

Any opinions expressed here are for educational purposes only and are not intended for diagnosis.

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  1. Creech CB, Al-Zubeidi DN, Fritz SA. Prevention of Recurrent Staphylococcal Skin Infections. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2015;29(3):429-464. doi:10.1016/j.idc.2015.05.007

  2. Hartman-Adams H, Banvard C, Juckett G. Impetigo: Diagnosis and Treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2014;90(4):229-235.

  3. Minnesota Department of Health. Causes and Symptoms of HA-MRSA.