02 Sep What is Hidradenitis Suppurativa?
Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with hidradenitis suppurativa? Once thought to be rare, this condition affects about one to four percent of the population. Medical professionals do not know the exact cause. Because of this, misdiagnosis and under diagnosis are common. Learn more about hidradenitis suppurative symptoms, causes and treatment options.
What is hidradenitis suppurativa?
Hidradenitis suppurativa, sometimes called acne inversa, is a skin condition affecting mostly women. It is uncommon in children and usually begins after puberty. Misconceptions about hidradenitis suppurative are common. Some of the most are that it is contagious, a result of poor hygiene or due to activities like shaving. But these are false. Hidradenitis suppurativa is not contagious. Too, it is usually the result of hair follicle blockage, not necessarily poor hygiene.
What are the symptoms?
Hidradenitis suppurativa tends to affect the underarms and groin. This is because skin is more likely to rub in these areas. Also, these areas are more likely to be affected because they contain sweat glands. Yet, some patients may also experience symptoms under the breasts, behind the ears and in skin folds. The most common symptoms include:
- Small, painful lumps
- Cysts or boils
- Skin “tunnels”
Symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe. Mild symptoms usually include one or a few spots. Moderate symptoms can cover significant area and are likely to recur. A severe case can mean symptoms occur in a widespread area that affects mobility. In most cases, mild symptoms will progress to moderate or severe stages without medical intervention. The skin lumps can burst or abscess and even cause tunnels in the skin. Infection is also more likely with moderate and severe cases.
What causes hidradenitis suppurativa?
Medical professionals do not know the exact cause of hidradenitis suppurativa. It tends to occur when the hair follicles, specifically the roots, get blocked. This blockage can cause the painful lumps, skin tunnels and infection. Anyone can have hidradenitis suppurativa. But it tends to most commonly affect women between the ages of 18 and 29. Other potential causes may include:
- Family history
- Obesity or weight gain
- Stress or hormonal changes
Is it treatable?
There is currently no known treatment for hidradenitis suppurativa. However, dermatologists can help you manage symptoms. Your doctor will diagnosis you by physical examination and talking through symptoms. No specific tests are needed, but your doctor may take samples if the area is infected or abscessed.
If left untreated, you may experience infection and decreased mobility in severe cases. Complications such as lymph node blockage may also occur. This condition is also linked with cases of social and mental health complications, such as depression and social isolation. Regular dermatology care can help you manage symptoms, though.
What are treatment options?
The most common options include surgery and medication. Surgical care for severe cases can include surgical removal and drainage of the area. If the skin has tunnels, a surgical procedure called unroofing can locate and correct tunneling. In addition, laser and electrosurgery can help. Oral and/or topical antibiotics can also help for mild or moderate cases. Sometimes, over the counter pain medication can help ease discomfort. In addition, some lifestyle changes may also help ease symptoms. These can include:
- Wear loose clothing
- Stop smoking
- Maintain healthy weight
- Avoid high heat and humidity
Hiddradenitis Suppurativa: Conclusion and Clinical Trials
If you have or think you may have hidradenitis suppurativa, you can find relief. Untreated symptoms may worsen over time. This can affect everyday life and your ability to move freely. If you are experiencing pain or recurring symptoms, it may be time to see your doctor. A board-certified dermatologist can help create a treatment plan.
Since not much is known about hidradenitis suppurativa, it’s important that doctors and researchers perform clinical trials for medications and advanced treatment options. Rivergate Dermatology Clinical Research Center is currently enrolling eligible candidates (18+ years old) for a hidradenitis suppurativa research trial. Learn more about our research trials and see if you qualify.
At Loven Dermatology, we are passionate about providing our patients with high-quality, individualized dermatological care and treatment. Our providers offer advanced, personalized care for a wide range of hair, skin and nail conditions. Please call us at 615.859.7546 for more information or to schedule your appointment.