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UMass Chan Dermatology Blog: Where Research Meets Healthy Skin

Understanding Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS): More Than Just Skin Blemishes

Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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If you've ever experienced recurring, painful bumps or abscesses in areas like your armpits, groin, or under your breasts, you might be dealing with a skin condition called Hidradenitis Suppurativa, or HS for short. HS is not something people often talk about, but it's more common than you might think!

So, what exactly is HS?

HS is a chronic skin condition. This means it's ongoing and needs regular management. Much like acne, HS happens when the hair follicles become clogged, causing inflammation, painful lumps, and sometimes tunnels under the skin that can leak pus. HS doesn't happen because of poor hygiene and it isn't contagious.

What does HS feel like?

HS features recurring boil-like lumps in sensitive areas of your body that just won't go away. They can be painful, itchy, and sometimes feel like they're burning. It can get quite uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing, especially if leaking is involved. Over time, repeated flare-ups can leave scars. For all of these reasons, HS is a hard disease to live with.

Who gets HS?

HS can affect people of any age, gender, or race. However, it's more common in women and often starts after puberty. Certain things can increase your risk, such as:

  • Family history of HS
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Having Type 2 diabetes

What can I do about HS?

The most important thing is to see a dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in skin conditions). They can confirm if you have HS and come up with a treatment plan to help you manage your symptoms and prevent flare-ups. Here are some things that might help:

  • Medicine: Your doctor might recommend creams, antibiotics, or other medications to reduce inflammation and help your skin heal.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Losing a little weight (if your doctor recommends it) and quitting smoking can make a big difference.
  • Warm compresses: Soaking a clean washcloth in warm water and applying it to the affected area can provide some relief from pain and tenderness.
  • Surgery: Surgery is recommended to treat persistent lesions or severely scarred areas.
  • Other procedures: there is some evidence that laser hair removal and BotoxTM can improve HS and/or prevent its progression.

Living with HS

Having HS can be tough, both physically and emotionally. It's important to remember that you're not alone! There are online communities and support groups where you can connect with others going through the same experiences. Don't hesitate to talk to your doctor about how HS impacts your life. They can suggest ways to manage the pain and emotional side effects.

Key Takeaways

  • HS is a chronic skin condition, not a reflection of your hygiene
  • It's a manageable condition – talk to a dermatologist about treatment options
  • There is help and support available!

If you think you might have HS, don't ignore it. The sooner you get a diagnosis, the sooner you can start getting relief.