Hidradenitis Suppurativa or HS

What Is HS?

Hidradenitis suppurativa, or HS, a chronic skin inflammation, is a disease of the apocrine glands which are a type of sweat gland found in various parts of the body, most notably in the groin, buttocks and underarms.  This disease is found commonly under the breasts of women as well.  Similar to acne, since it too is a disease of the sebaceous glands, hidradenitis is more common in people who have a history of acne and it can be considered something of an unusual type of adult acne.  The presence of blackheads and lesions - red tender bumps - which often enlarge, break open and drain pus, is an indicator of HS.

Hidradenitis suppurativa begins at puberty, when the sweat glands begin to develop, and persists for years, often worsening over time.  HS develops when oil glands and hair follicles become blocked and the oils become trapped, pushing into surrounding tissue.  Bacteria can then cause inflammation.  Little is known about the exact cause of hidradenitis suppurativa, and there is no cure for it.  The symptoms can be managed and new lesions can be prevented by early diagnosis and treatment.

What does Hidradenitis Look Like?

This disease presents as clusters or groups of abscesses or boils which can be very large or very small, however they are extremely painful and persistent.  Because they are chronic, there can be occasional to frequent periods of time where there is inflammation, breaking of lesions, and draining of pus - often leaving open sores which, when they finally heal, leave scarring behind.  Bacterial infections cause the pain and also the odor which accompanies the inflammation.  The pain experienced from HS and the boil-like lesions can be very severe and drainage often helps relieve some of the pressure.

Contributors To The Condition

There are a number of contributors to flare-ups; among them is stress, perspiration, hormones, genetics and cigarette smoking.  Hidradenitis is made worse by being overweight, however the condition is not caused by obesity and losing weight will not cure the disease.  It is sometimes present with other diseases such as Crohn's disease, herpes, or Grave's disease.

Mild cases of HS can be cared for with self-care measures, however, if the condition doesn't improve rapidly, or appears in several areas, is recurrent and painful, it is advisable to see a physician who will do tests and prescribe a course of treatment to manage the symptoms and to prevent new lesions for developing.