Carbuncle, an unhealthy inflammation of the surface, accompanied by a sloughing of a circumscribed portion of the subcutaneous cellular tissue; of the same nature as a boil, only deeper seated and of larger size. It begins by a hard, tense swelling, of a livid and shining appearance, and with severe burning pain; it is generally accompanied by feverish symptoms, often of considerable severity, and is slow in its progress; in from one to three weeks the skin becomes thin and perforated by numerous openings, from which issues a thin whitish discharge; the ulcers finally unite into one of large size, at the bottom of which is seen a soft grayish mass, the slough of the cellular tissue, with a very disagreeable odor; this slough or core is soon separated, leaving a deep excavation, with thin edges, and surrounded by a livid skin. The swelling may vary in size from one to six inches in diameter, and is usually found upon the back, nape of the neck, and nates; it may occur also on the shoulders, chest, lower jaw, and lower extremities. It is most common in adults and old persons whose constitutions have been broken down by intemperance, exposure, hard study, or mental anxiety; it is always an evidence of a vitiated state of the blood and of derangement of the digestive organs.
If of large size, in an enfeebled constitution, or on or near the head, a carbuncle may endanger life. The local treatment which has been found the best is to make free incisions into the tumor, to allow the escape of the discharge and sloughs, to relieve the engorged tissues by the loss of blood, and to excite them to healthy suppuration and granulation; warm and stimulating poultices, ointments, and lotions hasten the cure. At the same time the diseased secretions of the alimentary canal should be removed by purgatives; the strength supported by nourishing diet, bark, and the mineral acids; irritability calmed by small doses of opium; and the blood renovated by a judicious exhibition of preparations of iron.
Carbuncle, in mineralogy, the name of a precious stone much valued by the ancients, said by some to be the ruby, while others regard it as the garnet. The Latin name carbunculus, like the term ruby, seems to have been applied to very different minerals, and may have comprehended the red sapphire, or oriental ruby, the spinelle ruby, the red topaz, and the red garnet.