Background: Boils and abscesses are common in primary care but the burden of recurrent infection is unknown.
Aim: To investigate the incidence of and risk factors for recurrence of boil or abscess for individuals consulting primary care.
Design and setting: Cohort study using electronic health records from primary care in the UK.
Method: The Health Improvement Network (THIN) database was used to identify patients who had consulted their GP for a boil or abscess. Poisson regression was used to examine the relationship between age, sex, social deprivation, and consultation and to calculate the incidence of, and risk factors for, repeat consultation for a boil or abscess.
Results: Overall, 164 461 individuals were identified who consulted their GP for a boil or abscess between 1995 and 2010. The incidence of first consultation for a boil or abscess was 512 (95% CI = 509 to 515) per 100 000 person-years in females and 387 (95% CI = 385 to 390) per 100 000 person-years in males. First consultations were most frequent in younger age groups (16-34 years) and those with the greatest levels of social deprivation. The rate of repeat consultation for a new infection during follow up was 107.5 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 105.6 to 109.4) per 1000 person-years. Obesity (relative risk [RR] 1.3, 95% CI = 1.2 to 1.3), diabetes (RR 1.3, 95% CI = 1.2 to 1.3), smoking (RR 1.3, 95% CI = 1.2 to 1.4), age <30 years (RR 1.2, 95% CI = 1.2 to 1.3), and prior antibiotic use (RR 1.4, 95% CI = 1.3-1.4) were all associated with repeat consultation for a boil or abscess.
Conclusion: Ten percent of patients with a boil or abscess develop a repeat boil or abscess within 12 months. Obesity, diabetes, young age, smoking, and prescription of an antibiotic in the 6 months before initial presentation were independently associated with recurrent infection, and may represent options for prevention.
Keywords: abscess; boils; epidemiology; primary care; risk factors.
© British Journal of General Practice 2015.