Hidradenitis Suppurativa Frequently Asked Questions

What is hidradenitis suppurativa?

Hidradenitis suppurativa is a skin condition affecting surface areas of the body. Generally these are isolated to parts of the skin that contain hair follicles and that are susceptible to friction, such as the armpits, between the thighs or between the buttocks. It is identifiable by pea-sized lumps under the skin. You may need to see a qualified physician to have the condition properly diagnosed.

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What are the symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa?

Hidradenitis suppurativa is a skin condition characterized by small, painful lumps under the skin. These lumps often contain foul-smelling puss that can leak. Hidradenitis suppurativa occurs in the armpits, under the breasts, the inner thighs or between the buttocks. Specific symptoms include:

  • Blackheads
  • Red, tender bumps
  • Painful pea-sized lumps
  • Leaking bumps or lesions

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What are the causes of hidradenitis suppurativa?

Hidradenitis suppurativa is caused by blockage of sweat glands in areas of the body that are prone to friction. Unfortunately the exact cause of this blockage is unknown. Despite that, the symptoms are currently manageable using modern pharmaceuticals and surgical techniques, making it relatively easy to live with this condition.

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What are the risk factors?

There are several factors that can heighten the incidence of hidradenitis suppurativa. No single factor will be the sole reason you experience it. These factors include:

  • Age. Generally hidradenitis occurs in young adults, from puberty to age 30.
  • Gender. Women are statistically more likely to contract hidradenitis than men.
  • Family history. Studies have shown that hidradenitis may be genetic.

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Are there any complications?

There are several complications and side effects arising from hidradenitis suppurativa. Each one of these is another reason to get the condition treated as soon as possible by a hidradenitis suppurativa specialist, as these complications are decidedly unpleasant, including:

  • Scars and skin changes. Much like acne, hidradenitis suppurativa is likely to leave scars on the affected site.
  • Restricted movement. Due to the sore and painful nature of hidradenitis suppurativa lesions, your movement may be restricted in affected areas.
  • Obstructed lymph drainage. Oftentimes hidradenitis suppurativa occurs in lymph drainage sites. Once this condition turns to scar tissue, it can block the lymph drainage system, resulting in swelling.

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What should I do to prepare for my initial consultation?

Firstly, we recommend you jot down when your signs and symptoms first began to show themselves. Make a list of all medications you take, including vitamins and other homeopathic remedies. Include dosage levels.

Please write down any questions you would like to ask you doctor. This is your body, and it’s the only one you have, so there is no aspect of your condition that should go unanswered.

Your doctor will likely ask the following questions:

  • When did your symptoms start?
  • Did the symptoms occur suddenly or gradually?
  • Are your lesions painful?
  • Is there a family history of such symptoms?
  • Have you had your symptoms before this time?

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What tests are performed to diagnose the condition?

In most cases, a qualified doctor or physician can diagnose hidradenitis suppurativa by simply examining the surface layer of your skin. In some cases, he or she may send fluid obtained from the lesions to a lab to fully ascertain the situation.

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What are my hidradenitis suppurativa treatment options?

Milder symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa may be managed by topical cream or orally-induced pills, such as antibiotics. In more severe cases of hidradenitis suppurativa, surgery may be necessary. In this case, surgery can include procedures that drain the lesions of their contents. Sometimes the surgery may require a skin graft over the condition, subsequent to a total removal of the affected area. Please consult our hidradenitis suppurativa treatment options page for more information.

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