Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS)
is an inflammatory condition of the hair follicle. Inflamed nodules and cysts
form in the armpits and groin. These may also be found under the breasts, and around the nipples and anus. Less commonly other areas of the body can be affected.
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The hair follicle becomes blocked causing inflammation. The blockage may lead to absesses, infection, or scarring. The sweat glands may also become inflamed.
Menstruation in women, weight gain, stress, hormonal changes, heat, and excessive perspiration may trigger the condition.
HS is more common in women than in men. Other factors that increase your chance of HS include:
- Family history
Current or history of smoking
- Metabolic syndrome—a condition marked by elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, and body weight
- Lipid disorders, including low HDL (good) cholesterol levels and/or high triglycerides
HS usually presents at puberty, but may occur at any age after that. It may cause:
- Burning, itching, or painful lumps in the armpits, groin, under the breasts, around the nipples or anus, and other involved areas
- Pus leaking from openings in the lumps
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
In most cases, the doctor will be able to make a diagnosis by looking at the abscesses and nodules.
Sometimes cultures will be done of the drainage. Occasionally, other blood tests or an ultrasound of the lesions is done.
The treatment will depend on the stage of the disease. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options may include one or more of the following:
Home Care and Lifestyle Changes
You may be able to improve the condition by taking these steps:
- Use warm compresses to relieve discomfort and promote abscess drainage.
- Avoid shaving if your skin becomes irritated.
- Wear loose-fitting, non-synthetic clothing.
- Use antibacterial soap.
- Try to avoid heat and humidity.
If you smoke, talk to your doctor about finding a program to help you
quit. It is also important to maintain a
and eat a healthful diet. If you need help losing weight, consider talking to a dietitian who can help you with meal planning.
Your doctor may prescribe 1 or more medications depending on the severity of your HS.
Your doctor may recommend oral or topical antibiotics.
Corticosteroids and Other Immunosuppresants
Corticosteroids may help improve symptoms. These can be taken by mouth, applied to the skin, or injected into the area.
Other medications called biologics, which decrease the body's immune response, may be used in severe cases. These medications have many risks, so your doctor will carefully weigh the risks and benefits of using these.
Hormonal medications, such as oral contraceptives can be used in some cases. At other times, medications called retinoids may be used.
Small lesions can be treated in the doctor's office.
The sores may be cut open and allowed to drain. If your condition is severe, then a wide area may need to be removed. In these cases, a
may be needed.
Other procedure options include:
- Laser surgery—uses lasers to remove
- Cryosurgery—uses cold to freeze lesions
- Laser hair removal
There are no current guidelines to prevent HS.
Hidradenitis suppurativa. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115217/Hidradenitis-suppurativa. February 1, 2016. Accessed May 9, 2016.
National Organization of Rare Diseases website. Available at:
Updated 2012. Accessed May 9, 2016.
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Fardet L, Dupuy A, Kerob D, et al. Infliximab for severe hidradenitis suppurativa: transient clinical efficacy in seven consecutive patients.
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11/30/2015 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115217/Hidradenitis-suppurativa: Tzellos T, Zouboulis CC, Gulliver W, et al. Cardiovascular disease risk factors in patients with hidradenitis suppurativa: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Br J Dermatol 2015 [Epub ahead of print].
Last reviewed June 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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