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Causes of Pustules

By Lisabetta DiVita ; Updated July 18, 2017

MedlinePlus says that pustules are tiny pus-filled lesions on the skin that appear to look like blisters. In fact, these pustules typically develop on the shoulders, face, armpit and groin. Sometimes, they form as a result of puberty or as the result of an infection or inflammatory condition. The causes of pustules have specific treatments.


Acne, commonly known as pimples or zits, is a skin problem that typically becomes prominent during puberty. Specific symptoms of acne include pustules, blackheads (small dark spots on the surface of the skin), cysts (tissue filled with fluid, air or pus) and redness. Acne can also lead to the formation of whiteheads (tiny white dots on the skin due to excessive oil accumulation), crusting and scarring of the skin.

Specifically, acne develops when the pores in the skin become clogged with dirt, oil or bacteria. Acne can develop on the face, buttocks, shoulders, trunk, arms and legs. MedlinePlus says that sweating, hormonal changes, certain medications such as steroids and certain makeups containing oil can lead to acne.

Treatment for acne involves cleaning the skin daily with a cleanser and water. Sometimes, medications such as minocycline, clindamycin, retinoic acid cream and benzoyl peroxide can be prescribed. In some instances, laser treatments, chemical peels and birth control pills may be used to manage acne.


The Mayo Clinic describes rosacea as a skin disease that typically affects adults. It says symptoms of rosacea include pustules on the cheeks, nose, chin and forehead. The face can generally appear to be red, and the nose may take on a bulbous appearance. Also, people with rosacea tend to blush easily. Sometimes, small blood vessels can be visible on the nose and cheeks.

Unfortunately, the cause of rosacea is unknown, but some of its risk factors for its development include spicy foods, stress, corticosteroids, alcohol, hot baths and sunlight.

Medications such as tretinoin can reduce the redness and inflammation. Oral antibiotics such as tetracycline can also decrease inflammation. Other rosacea treatments include isotretinoin, a medication that works to prevent the sebaceous glands from producing the oil that contributes to such rosacea symptoms as pustules.


Furuncles refer to a type of skin infection that involves the areas surrounding a hair follicle. MedlinePlus says that a furuncle initially starts as a pink bump that fills with water. Over time, it can fill with yellow or white pus (pustule). The furuncles can then converge to form a larger furuncle. These furuncles can crust over and ooze. Other symptoms associated with furuncles include fatigue, fever, skin redness and itching.

The Staphylococcus aureus bacteria causes furuncles to form. In fact, damage to any hair follicles can introduce this bacteria into the tissues.

Furuncles can resolve on their own as they will eventually burst and drain pus. Sometimes, applying a warm washcloth to the furuncle can quicken its drainage. In severe cases, the furuncle may be surgically drained. It is important to wash the hands to prevent the spread of the infection and to keep the affected area clean.

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