Definition

Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is long term, recurring condition of the hair follicle. Inflamed nodes and cysts form in the armpits and groin. These may also be found under the breasts, and around the nipples, and anus. Other areas may be affected, but this isn’t common.

Skin, Hair, Hair Follicle
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Causes

The hair follicle becomes blocked causing inflammation. This may lead to abscesses, infection, or scars. The sweat glands may also become inflamed.

A mix of factors lead to HS such as:

  • Genetics
  • An overactive immune system
  • How hormones act on the body

Risk Factors

HS is more common in women than in men. Your chances of HS are also higher if you:

Symptoms

Most people with HS have problems after adolescence. But HS can happen at any age. HS 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 breaks in the lumps
  • Scarring

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. Your answers and a physical exam may point to HS. In some cases, you may have blood tests or swabs of the fluid from your skin.

Treatment

The goal of care is to control outbreaks. Care may involve:

Home Care and Lifestyle Changes

Making changes may help you lower your chances of an outbreak:

  • Lose extra weight—talk to a dietitian who can help you do it safely
  • Quit smoking—your doctor can help you find a plan to successfully quit
  • Try to stay cool to lower the chances of sweating
  • Stay away from heat or humidity when you can
  • Wear loose clothing that won’t rub on your skin
  • If your skin is irritated, don’t shave until it’s better

Talk to your doctor about customized bandaging

Medications

Your doctor may advise:

  • Antibiotics
  • Medicines to lower the effects of the immune system such as:
    • Corticosteroids
    • Biologic agents
    • Retinoids
    • Hormonal therapy

Medicines may be as a pill, rubbed into the skin, or given as a shot.

Surgery

If other methods don’t work, surgery may be an option. Methods of surgery:

Other procedure options include:

  • Laser—uses heat to remove lesions
  • Cryosurgery—uses cold to remove lesions
  • Laser hair removal
  • Skin graft

Prevention

There is no way to prevent HS because the exact cause is unknown.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD
  • Review Date: 06/2018 -
  • Update Date: 06/19/2018 -