What is Hidradenitis Suppurativa?

Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), is a chronic skin condition characterised by inflamed areas typically located around the armpits and groin. These inflamed areas often include painful lesions, nodules and boils, and usually occur where certain sweat glands (known as apocrine glands) are located, as well as under the breasts, on the buttocks and in the inner thighs, where skin rubs together. HS is not an infectious or contagious disease.1,2

Sometimes referred to as “acne inversa” by dermatologists, HS can take on a variety of forms, which can be different from person to person. Mild cases of HS can consist of small bumps, blackheads or a few cysts, while patients with more severe forms can have multiple recurrent abscesses which sometimes release fluid, resulting in an unpleasant odor.1,2 Lesions caused by HS can be very uncomfortable and painful, often interfering with the quality of life of those living with the condition.2

Though it affects the skin, HS is an inflammatory disorder, which means the condition is brought on by irregularities in the body’s own immune system. HS can occur at any age, but the condition most commonly develops in adults in their early 20s, with declining rates after the age of 50 to 55.2

 

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Global prevalence of HS of about 1% has been reported in the general population.3 However, because the condition is often misdiagnosed and many people living with HS don’t always feel comfortable talking about their symptoms or seeking out their dermatologist for help, the number of people who are actually diagnosed with HS is far less than this estimate.4-6

While not all cases of HS are progressive (meaning that the condition can increase in severity over time), some cases of HS can continue to reappear and grow more severe if not properly managed. As a result, diagnosing and properly managing HS as early as possible is important. The first step is to speak to your GP who may refer you to a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis.

REFERENCES:

  1. Mayo Health Clinic. Hidradenitis Suppurativa. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hidradenitis-suppurativa/home/ovc-20200012. Accessed August 23, 2013.
  2. Jemec G. Hidradenitis Suppurativa. N Engl J Med. 2012; 366:158-64.
  3. Collier F., Smith R., Morton C. Diagnosis and management of hidradenitis suppurativa. BMJ. 2013; 346:f2121.
  4. Fimmel S, Zouboulis CC. Comorbidities of hidradenitis suppurativa (acne inversa). Dermatoendocrinol 2010; 2:9-16.
  5. Kurzen H, Kurokawa I, Jemec GB, et al. What causes hidradenitis suppurativa? Exp Dermatol 2008; 17:455-6; discussion 7-72.
  6. Zouboulis CC, Tsatsou F (2012) Disorders of the apocrine sweat glands. In: Goldsmith LA, Katz SI, Gilchrest BA, Paller AS, Leffell DJ, Wolff K (eds) Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed, McGraw Hill, New York Chicago, pp 947-959.
  7. Revuz J. Hidradenitis Suppurativa. JEADV 2009, 23, 985 –998