Hidradenitis Suppurativa

hidradenitis suppurativaWe all go through physical changes throughout our lives. These stages of change sometimes bring skin problems, including blackheads, cysts and pimples. But sometimes what we think is just a few new pimples or bumps can actually indicate a deeper problem. One such condition is hidradenitis suppurativa, also called acne inversa.

What is hidradenitis suppurativa?

Often appearing where your skin touches other skin, such as under your arms or in the groin, hidradenitis suppurativa may present as another dermatological condition at first. After a while, you may notice a pattern of repeated bumps occurring in these areas, areas where acne is rare. Sometimes, the chronic infections of hidradenitis suppurativa on your skin look and feel like painful boils.

Hidradenitis suppurativa is often initially mistaken for the following conditions:

  • Pimples or "butt acne"
  • Deep acne-like recurrent cysts and blackheads
  • Chronic folliculitis or ingrown hairs
  • Recurrent boils
  • Chronic staph infections

If you are experiencing chronic bumps on your skin, it is time to make an appointment with the best dermatologist for your needs. The earlier hidradenitis suppurativa is diagnosed, the simpler the treatment so don’t hesitate to visit your dermatologist today!

How does hidradenitis suppurativa affect you?

Difficult cases of hidradenitis suppurativa include painful, deep pimple or boil-like bumps. These recurrent abscesses can break open and leak bloody pus. One of the characteristics of this liquid is its foul odor. Between the smell and the damage the pus can do to clothing, hidradenitis suppurativa, in addition to being painful, can cause embarrassment.

Scar tissue forms where your hidradenitis suppurativa bumps heal. Over time, the scar tissue may form tunnel-like tracts under your skin that thicken and cause discomfort in movement.

Parts of the body where hidradenitis suppurativa tends to develop include:

  • Underarms
  • Groin
  • Buttocks
  • Women's breasts
  • Upper thigh

What causes hidradenitis suppurativa?

The cause of hidradenitis suppurativa is still widely unknown. It is believed that hormones or an overactive immune system may play a role. Anyone can get hidradenitis suppurativa, but this condition most commonly presents in people who are overweight, smoke, are between the ages of 11 to 55, and it’s more common in women than men. In fact, about 75 percent of cases are women.

Lifestyle seems to influence the development of hidradenitis suppurativa. Smoking, obesity and using lithium medication are all possible triggers, but they are not direct causes. Hygiene also does not seem to affect hidradenitis suppurativa.

What we do know about hidradenitis suppurativa is that it is not a contagious disease. However, there is a genetic component. One in three people with the condition have a family member who has also had hidradenitis suppurativa.  

How to Treat Hidradenitis Suppurativa

Seeing your dermatologist as early in your condition as possible is important for your hidradenitis suppurativa treatment. In the first exam, you will have an in-depth skin examination and need to answer questions about the breakouts and your skin history. If you have pus leaking from your breakout, the fluid may be collected for closer examination. You may need to have a blood test at this dermatologist visit.

Treatment options for hidradenitis suppurativa include a range of medications, radiation or surgery. Radiation and surgery are reserved for  people with severe cases whose breakouts have not responded to medicine.

Medications that work may be used to treat hidradenitis suppurativa include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Acne washes and medications
  • Bleach bath
  • Adalimumab biologic
  • Corticosteroid injections or pills
  • Diabetes medications
  • Hormone therapy
  • Oral retinoid

There are four types of surgery commonly used to treat hidradenitis suppurativa, including laser surgery that destroys the problematic hair follicles, deroofing to turn painful bumps into scars, draining and removal of bumps, and excision to remove the hidradenitis suppurativa and surrounding tissue.

None of these methods work for everyone. Finding the method that works for you is still based on trial and error. You will likely need to try several medications to find the one that works for you. If medication doesn’t work, you will need to consider radiation or surgery. Treatment for hidradenitis suppurativa generally has a huge positive impact on quality of life by successfully clearing breakouts, getting rid of scars and preventing future flare-ups.

How to Stop A Flare-Up

The best way to stop a flare up from hidradenitis suppurativa is to see your dermatologist as soon as possible and to use the treatment methods that has been recommended to you.  While awaiting your dermatology appointment, try using a warm compress on the affected areas. Over-the-counter NSAIDs can also relieve your pain and swelling.

Lifestyle changes may reduce or even eliminate breakouts of hidradenitis suppurativa. These include:

  • Losing weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding shaving of the affected areas
  • Wearing loose clothing
  • Keeping cool
  • Gently washing areas of hidradenitis suppurativa with antibacterial soap each day
  • Covering leaking bumps with bandages that do not stick to the wound

Call us today at 913-469-1115 to schedule an appointment to diagnose and treat your painful hidradenitis suppurativa breakouts. Our caring professionals are here to help with all your dermatology needs.

Adult and Pediatric Dermatology
4601 W. 109th St., Suite 116  •  Overland Park, Kansas 66211  •  913-469-1115