Pustules – Causes, Treatment


Pustules , i.e. painful pus blisters , can arise from a variety of causes and should therefore not be underestimated in their importance. A visit to the dermatologist can help to find the reasons for their appearance and to rid the patient of the annoying pustules.

What are pustules?

Pustules are pus-filled blisters that can form on the skin for a variety of reasons. They consist of a cavity that is superficial (either in the epidermis or subepidermal) on the skin.

Depending on the cause, their contents can be infectious or sterile. Pustules are usually red in color, with the tip of the blister often turning white. In most cases, pustules appear on the skin of the face, neck, shoulders, back, legs and buttocks and are particularly painful when touched.

Usually, pustules are not a secondary manifestation of another disease, but an independent (primary) change in the skin.


Pustules can arise for a variety of reasons. It is not uncommon for them to appear in connection with advanced acne : in this case, the pustules form as a result of a build-up of sebum on the hair follicles, which then become inflamed.

A bacterial infection such as folliculitis can also lead to pustules. Infection with streptococci or staphylococci is possible, especially in children. Although these bacteria are always present on the skin, if the immune system is weakened , they can cause a highly contagious pustular itch, which in turn can lead to severe kidney damage.

Infection with skin fungi or parasites can also cause pustules. The last common cause of pustules is allergies , where contact with the allergen can lead to severe, inflammatory skin reactions.

diseases with this symptom

Diagnosis & History

In the case of pustules and other painful changes in the skin, a dermatologist should always be consulted; only he can reliably diagnose whether and what type of pustules it is and how to proceed.

If left untreated, pustules often cause inflammation of the skin, which can spread and damage the skin – especially cosmetic damage. However, it is not the pustules themselves that are decisive for the course, but their cause:

While allergens can be avoided and the course remains harmless, an untreated infection can lead to permanent damage. It is therefore urgently advisable to have the pustules treated.


Pustules do not usually cause major complications. In rare cases, however, the pustules can cause an infection of the skin and nerve cells. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent damage such as scars , insensitivity to touch or paralysis of the skin.

If the pustules are due to an intolerance, a variety of symptoms such as skin irritation, breathing difficulties, etc. can occur depending on the allergy . If the course is severe, the pustules can develop into severe abscesses with pus formation. In rare cases, the pus pathogens can penetrate into the brain and cause bacterial meningitis .

In the case of larger pustules, there is also the risk of phlegmon, i.e. the irritation spreading to the neighboring connective tissue, which is usually accompanied by symptoms of fever and itching . Parasites and fungi as a cause harbor the risk of weakening the immune system and can only be treated without complications by rapid therapy.

Typical complications in the treatment of pustules are intolerance to the prescribed medication and a temporary increase in skin irritation until the therapy is adjusted to the underlying disease. There are usually no serious complications from pustules if treatment is initiated early and there are no underlying diseases or other predispositions.

When should you go to the doctor?

Most pustules have harmless triggers such as an irritating skin cream or an itchy piece of clothing. However, if the rash persists, there is probably a serious cause that requires a doctor’s visit. Medical clarification is particularly recommended for pustules that appear suddenly and the cause of which is unclear. If it is accompanied by severe itching and pain, you should speak to your family doctor . This is especially true when there are severe accompanying symptoms.

Symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath or tremors indicate a serious cause that must be clarified immediately. In the case of skin bleeding and noticeable skin changes such as redness or knots, you should act quickly. Likewise, if the pustules spread further or form blisters. Pustules in infants and small children should be clarified immediately by the pediatrician. If the symptoms are severe and require immediate treatment, we recommend going to the emergency room. If pustules develop after an insect bite or contact with irritating substances, the emergency doctor should be called in. Depending on the suspicion, other contacts are the general practitioner or a dermatologist .

Treatment & Therapy

In order to determine the cause of the appearance of the pustules and thus treat them, a dermatologist should be consulted. He will ask the patient about possible causes (such as allergy triggers) and look for other symptoms. A swab may also be taken from the contents of the pustules, which will be examined for bacteria in the laboratory.

Appropriate treatment measures can only be taken afterwards. So if the infection is bacterial, the doctor will likely recommend antibiotics to reduce bacterial density. If the pustules are caused by acne, there are various treatments available, including drugs that reduce sebum production. If the pustules were caused by an allergy, either desensitization is carried out or the allergen is avoided.

Parasites and fungi are also treated with appropriate antidotes. In support of treating the cause, skin care should be optimized in order to regenerate the affected skin and better protect it from the appearance of new pustules. Which products are used for this depends on the skin type . For severe cases, such as severely inflamed skin, the dermatologist will prescribe or recommend appropriate remedies to help care for and treat the pustules.

Outlook & Forecast

If a form of acne, for example acne vulgaris, is the cause of the pustule formation, the course of the disease is difficult to assess. Without treatment, the condition usually gets worse and there is a risk of scarring. The symptoms usually improve after treatment with creams and tinctures that contain an antibacterial agent and also counteract seborrhea. For some patients, however, this is not enough. Here, oral administration of antibiotics is required. In women, it may be necessary to switch hormonal contraceptives.

Acne in adolescents usually goes away on its own once the sufferer is past puberty . However, acne can also become chronic and cause symptoms for decades, which then usually occur in phases.

Pustules caused by childhood diseases such as rubella , measles or chickenpox usually heal without a trace. In the case of chickenpox in particular, scratching the pustules can lead to the formation of clearly visible scars on the face. The risk of scarring is particularly high in adults. In children, even scratched blisters usually fade again after several weeks.

Pustules caused by allergies usually heal within a short period of time once the irritant is identified and avoided.


In order to prevent the development of new pustules, their triggers should be avoided. This includes known allergy triggers, but also protection against insect bites (e.g. against ticks). Good but not excessive skin hygiene protects against fungal infestation. Care products tailored to individual needs, as well as sauna sessions and steam baths, also help to strengthen the skin’s function and protect it from pustules in the best possible way.

You can do that yourself

Pustules can be treated with various home remedies and measures. Anyone suffering from a skin rash should first make sure that the symptoms are not caused by an allergy or a serious skin disease. It is often enough to use care products tailored to individual needs to strengthen the skin’s function and prevent pustules.

Saunas and steam baths help against redness and itching , as do warm compresses with anti-inflammatory herbs such as chamomile or sage . Cold compresses are ideal for treating sudden pustules, while chronic symptoms can be relieved with anti-inflammatory peppermint or healing earth, among other things . A special effect is also attributed to olive oil . Mixed with honey and applied directly to the pustules, it noticeably relieves itching immediately and makes the skin supple and elastic again. Alternatively, a porridge of olive oil, garlic clovesand chopped basil can be applied to the rash.

Applications with baking soda and oat flakes help against weeping pustules, but also tea tree oil , aloe vera or calendula . It is also important to strengthen the immune system and protect the pustules from hot water and direct sunlight so that the rash can heal quickly.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.