Hidradenitis Suppurativa

What is hidradenitis suppurativa?

Hidradenitis suppurativa (say: “hi-dra-dun-i-tis sup-you-ra-ti-va”) is a chronic (long-lasting) disease that affects the apocrine glands. The apocrine glands are a type of sweat gland. Hidradenitis suppurativa is considered a severe form of acne. People who have hidradenitis suppurativa develop painful red bumps or sores in the armpits, groin and anal area. Women can also develop hidradenitis suppurativa under the breasts.

Who gets hidradenitis suppurativa?

Women are more likely than men to develop hidradenitis suppurativa. People who have a history of acne have a higher risk of developing this condition. Hidradenitis suppurativa may run in families.

What causes hidradenitis suppurativa?

Hidradenitis suppurativa occurs when sweat glands and hair follicle openings become blocked. Doctors don't know why this happens. Poor hygiene does not cause this condition. It is not contagious. You can't catch it from or pass it to anyone.

How can I tell if I have hidradenitis suppurativa?

Symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa include one or more red bumps that are painful. The bumps get bigger, become inflamed and leak pus. The bumps usually appear in areas where hair grows, such as the groin, armpits or between the buttocks. They can also appear in areas where the skin rubs together such as between the thighs or under the breasts in women. Hidradenitis suppurativa can also cause itching and a foul odor in the affected area. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor.

How is hidradenitis suppurativa treated?

Treatment depends on how severe your condition is. If your hidradenitis suppurativa is mild, applying warm compresses to the affected area and washing it with anti-bacterial soap may help with your symptoms. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (one brand: Advil) can help to manage swelling and relieve the pain. More severe cases may require topical (applied to the skin) or oral (taken by mouth) antibiotics. For some people, hidradenitis suppurativa gets worse over time. Scarring can occur in the affected area. These people may need surgery. Surgery is the most effective treatment for severe, chronic hidradenitis suppurativa.

How can I prevent flare-ups of hidradenitis suppurativa?

There is no sure way of preventing flare-ups, but avoiding the following may help:

  • Tight, synthetic clothing
  • Hot, humid climates 
  • Shaving
  • Using deodorant
  • Stress

Staying healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep may also help prevent flare-ups. If you are overweight, losing weight may help you feel better.