Pustules

Definition

Pustules are small, inflamed, pus-filled, blister-like sores (lesions) on the skin surface.

Considerations

Pustules are common in acne and folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicle). They may occur anywhere on the body, but are most commonly seen in these areas:

  • Back
  • Face
  • Over the breastbone
  • Shoulders
  • Sweaty areas, such as the groin or armpit

Pustules may be a sign of an infection. They should be checked by a health care provider and may need to be tested (cultured) for bacteria or fungus.

Images

Pustules - superficial on the arm
Acne - close-up of pustular lesions
Acne - cystic on the face
Dermatitis - pustular contact

References

Habif TP. Principles of diagnosis and anatomy. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 1.

Marks JG, Miller JJ. Pustules. In: Marks JG, Miller JJ, eds. Lookingbill and Marks' Principles of Dermatology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 12.

Review Date: 
10/8/2018
Reviewed By: 
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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