Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a little-known skin condition that is complex and can go undiagnosed for years. The boils, nodules, and bumps formed are painful and can have severe effects on your daily life and emotional wellbeing. The key to managing HS and its flare-ups effectively lies in early detection. Here is what you need to know about living with HS.
What is Hidradenitis Suppurativa?
Hidradenitis suppurativa, or HS, is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that causes small, painful bumps to form under the skin. These can progress and create tunnels under the skin, becoming abscesses that may eventually burst and cause scarring. It affects mainly the areas where skin rubs together, such as the inner thighs, groin, armpits, and buttocks.
HS is not contagious, is not an STD, nor is it a result of poor hygiene. Women aged 18-29 are more often affected than men; it can run in families, and typically begins in adolescence but rarely goes past the age of 55.
The cause of HS is not known, but it occurs when the hair follicles in the skin become blocked. It is believed that a malfunctioning immune system plays a factor. The immune system produces proteins to protect the skin and help regulate it. In HS, too many of these proteins are produced and lead to increased inflammation in the body. The inflammation creates pressure in the layers of the skin and hair follicle glands, which form the bumps.
No lab test is available that detects HS, so your doctor will likely take your history and examine your skin. Other infections can be ruled out by sending any pus present to be tested. HS requires a multi-disciplinary approach, so a dermatologist may work in conjunction with your doctor towards the best treatment approach. Early detection plays a vital role in keeping flare-ups under control, so if you suspect you have the symptoms of HS, talk to your doctor immediately.
Invisible Scars of HS
HS can leave physical and emotional scars that can be lasting. Low self-esteem and depression are common in those diagnosed. Talk to your doctor about any feelings of sadness that do not go away. Connecting with others diagnosed with HS can eliminate the belief you are all alone in this battle, and help you discover things working for others you may not have tried. Staying healthy and active, practicing good hygiene, wearing loose clothing, and having a stable support system are great management steps as well.
There is no cure, but treatments are continually evolving and help control symptoms and prevent complications. Systemic, antibiotic, and pain medications are currently available. Laser therapy, removal of the affected area, and removing tissue to expose tunnels are some of the surgical methods used.
Clinical research currently being conducted is providing hope for improving HS care. Timing of surgical procedures and other interventions such as topical antiseptics and biologic therapies are being studied. The research team at ForCare Medical is currently enrolling participants in a research study evaluating a new treatment for HS. To learn more about this study, click here.