Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a chronic skin condition that causes painful, boil-like lesions to develop in the areas where skin rubs together, such as the armpits, groin, and under the breasts. It is thought to be caused by a combination of factors, including genetics, hormonal changes, and the presence of certain bacteria on the skin.
The symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) can vary from person to person, but may include:
- The development of painful, swollen lumps under the skin
- The formation of abscesses (collections of pus)
- The appearance of scarring
- Discharge or bleeding from affected areas
- Pain or discomfort when moving or exercising
- A foul odor from affected areas
- Difficulty with daily activities, such as walking or sitting
It is important to note that not all individuals with HS will experience all of these symptoms, and the severity of the condition can vary greatly from person to person.
What causes hidradenitis suppurativa
The exact cause of hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is not fully understood, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of factors, including:
- Genetics: HS tends to run in families, suggesting that there may be a genetic component to the condition.
- Hormonal changes: Some research suggests that hormonal changes, particularly an excess of male hormones (androgens), may play a role in the development of HS.
- The presence of certain bacteria on the skin: The presence of certain types of bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, on the skin may contribute to the development of HS.
- Friction and irritation: HS is more common in areas of the body where skin rubs together, such as the armpits, groin, and under the breasts. This suggests that friction and irritation may play a role in the development of the condition.
If you smoke or are obese, you are at an increased risk of developing hidradenitis suppurativa and may experience more severe symptoms if you do. This skin condition often begins during puberty, but it can occur at any age. It is less common in those who have not yet reached puberty and in postmenopausal women, which suggests that sex hormones may play a role. Many people with hidradenitis suppurativa also have acne and excessive hair growth. In some cases, the condition may be associated with Crohn’s disease, particularly if it affects the groin area and skin near the anus. Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the digestive system.
Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) can affect individuals of any age, gender, and race. However, it is more commonly seen in women and is typically diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 30. HS is more rare in children and those over the age of 50.
There are certain factors that may increase an individual’s risk of developing HS, including:
- Being obese
- Having a family history of the condition
- Having certain medical conditions, such as Crohn’s disease or acne
- Taking certain medications, such as androgen-based drugs or anabolic steroids
HS is not contagious and cannot be passed from one person to another.
Diagnosing hidradenitis suppurativa
Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is often diagnosed based on the presence of its characteristic symptoms, such as the development of painful, swollen lumps under the skin and the formation of abscesses (collections of pus). A healthcare provider will typically perform a physical examination and ask about the individual’s medical history and symptoms.
- In some cases, additional testing may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis of HS or to rule out other conditions. This may include:
- Skin culture: A sample of the affected skin is taken and examined in a laboratory to identify any bacteria or other organisms that may be contributing to the condition.
- Imaging tests: X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans may be used to get a better look at the affected areas and to assess the extent of the condition.
- Biopsy: A small sample of affected skin may be taken and examined under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis of HS.
It is possible for hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) to be mistaken for acne or ingrown hairs due to the presence of similar symptoms, such as the development of painful, swollen lumps on the skin. However, HS is a distinct skin condition that requires specific treatment.
Treating hidradenitis suppurativa
There is no cure for hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), but the condition can be managed with a combination of treatments. The goal of treatment is to reduce the number of flare-ups and improve the overall appearance of the skin. Treatment options for HS may include:
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics are a common treatment option for hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) and can be administered in several forms, including creams, tablets, capsules, and liquids. Some examples of antibiotics that may be used to treat HS include erythromycin, lymecycline, doxycycline, and tetracycline.
- Anti-inflammatory medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be used to reduce inflammation and pain associated with HS.
- Hormonal therapies: Hormonal therapies, such as oral contraceptives or medications that reduce the production of androgens, may be used to help manage HS in women.
- Surgery: In severe cases of HS, surgery may be necessary to remove affected tissue and prevent the formation of new abscesses.
- Other treatments: Other treatments that may be helpful in managing HS include wound care, skin care, and lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and quitting smoking.
Complications of hidradenitis suppurativa
Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) can lead to several complications, including:
- Scarring: The development of abscesses (collections of pus) and the formation of scar tissue can lead to the appearance of scarring on the skin.
- Social isolation: The appearance of the skin can be a source of embarrassment for some individuals with HS, leading to social isolation and feelings of low self-esteem.
- Depression and anxiety: The chronic nature of HS and the physical and emotional toll it can take on an individual can lead to the development of depression and anxiety.
- Sleep disturbances: Pain and discomfort associated with HS can lead to difficulty sleeping, which can further impact an individual’s quality of life.
- Poor quality of life: The impact of HS on an individual’s physical and emotional well-being can lead to a decreased quality of life.
Preventing hidradenitis suppurativa
There is no known way to prevent the development of hidradenitis suppurativa (HS). However, there are some things that may help reduce the risk of flare-ups and improve the overall appearance of the skin:
- Maintaining a healthy weight: Being obese may increase the risk of developing HS. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise may help reduce the risk of flare-ups.
- Avoiding smoking: Smoking is associated with an increased risk of HS and may worsen the symptoms of the condition. Quitting smoking may help reduce the risk of flare-ups.
- Practicing good hygiene: Proper hygiene, including showering daily and using an antimicrobial soap, may help reduce the risk of infections and flare-ups.
- Using non-irritating products: Using gentle, non-irritating products on the skin may help reduce irritation and the risk of flare-ups.
- Wearing loose-fitting clothing: Wearing clothing that is loose-fitting and made of natural fibers may help reduce irritation and the risk of flare-ups in areas of the body where skin rubs together.