Hidradenitis Suppurativa: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Hidradenitis Suppurativa or HS is a skin disease that is known for clusters of abscesses, epidermoid cysts, pilonidal cysts, sebaceous cysts, or multilocalised infections. It develops when the hair follicles become blocked, then inflamed. Causes of the hair follicles becoming blocked could include genetics, cigarettes, hormones and excessive weight. Taking lithium also plays a role in developing hidradenitis suppurativa. The disease is not contagious and usually effects areas of the skin that have apocrine sweat glands, such as the groin, armpits, inner thighs, buttocks, and under the breasts. Approximately 33% of those with hidradenitis suppurativa have a blood relative that have the skin disease.
These cysts tend to last for many years and are known to be tender. Lumps will form under the skin that are pea sized to marble sized. They can break open at any time and have a foul smelling discharge or pus. These bumps may itch, sweat excessively, or burn. They will heal very slowly and in some cases do not even heal at all. Other signs and symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa include blackheads that appear in a pair, which are also known as having a double barreled pattern. It usually starts after puberty has hit, and gets persistently worse over the years. Excessive heat, being overweight, stress, excessive perspiration, and hormonal changes can make hidradenitis suppurativa worse. Woman are three times as likely as men to get hidradenitis suppurativa. It is extremely rare for a woman to contract hidradenitis suppurativa after menopause or after 55 years.
What to do if you think you may have Hidradenitis Suppurativa?
Should you suspect that you do have hidradenitis suppurativa, your doctor will exam the skin. A sample of any pus or drainage may be taken. Your dermatologist will also want to know how painful the skin condition is, when it started, and if it came on gradually or suddenly.
Hidradenitis Suppurativa Treatment
There is not a cure for hidradenitis suppurativa. However, your doctor could prescribe some antibiotics to prevent the skin disease from getting worse. They could be prescribed as either an oral pill or a topical cream. Corticosteroids injected directly into the nodule could also help with the pain. Oral steroids may be given, and tumor necrosis factor(TNF) alpha inhibitors can also be used, but there is a caution with these as they can increase the risk of infection, cancers, and heart failure.
Surgery may also be an option for those that suffer from hidradenitis suppurativa. If the area involved is a small, single area, surgical drainage can be used. Please do note that this form of treatment is often used for short term relief. A procedure called De-roofing can be done, in which the skin and flesh are cut from an interconnecting tunnels that have linked separate lesions. The skin disease can still return to this area of the body later on. A third procedure involves surgical removal. A skin graft could be needed to close the wound fully.
Lifestyle remedies that can help with hidradenitis suppurativa include losing weight. It is important to note that losing weight is not a cure for the skin disease, however, it could help to improve the symptoms. Wearing looser fitting clothing will help to prevent skin irritation. Tight clothing could irritate the skin, as could synthetic clothing. Applying warm compresses to the skin will reduce swelling and keeping the affected area clean with antibacterial soap and an OTC antibiotic will help with symptoms when hidradenitis suppurativa flares up. Taking zinc oxide daily can help prevent new outbreaks from forming as well as reducing the inflammation.