Pustules

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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. In some cases, they are non-infectious and associated with inflammation in the skin or medicines. 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

Dinulos JGH. Principles of diagnosis and anatomy. In: Dinulos JGH, ed. Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021: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: 
11/4/2020
Reviewed By: 
Elika Hoss, MD, Senior Associate Consultant, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ. 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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