Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS)

What is HS?

It is a chronic skin condition. It is more likely in women than men. It tends to be worse in men. It is found on the body where there are warm, moist sweat glands, such as:

  • Arm pits
  • Under breasts
  • Creases of the groin
  • Buttocks

Signs are:

  • Reoccurring red, sore boils
    • Boils can be single or in groups.
    • They can be open or draining. Drainage can be foul smelling.
  • Blackheads
  • Tunnels or bridges under the skin connecting boils

What causes this?

It is caused by blockage of the oil ducts and hair follicles that lead to the skin surface. This causes bacteria build up. You skin starts to inflame.

How is it diagnosed?

  • Your provider may see the skin changes in the common places.
  • Normal boils can be treated with antibiotics. They do not come back in the same place after treatment. Boils that keeping coming back in the same place and antibiotics do not resolve are a sign of HS.
  • Normal boils point straight up to the surface when they rupture. It is a sign of HS if they point sideways.

HS treatment

It depends how severe the HS is. 

  • Follow the Vulvar Skin Care Guidelines.
  • Do not squeeze or pinch the boils.
  • Wear very loose-fitting clothing on the affected places.
  • Keep your body weight in the ideal range. This helps lessen symptoms.
  • Keep your blood glucose levels under control if you have diabetes.
  • Stop smoking.
    • There is a strong relationship between smoking and HS.
    • Any form of nicotine causes plugging of the pores.
    • Smoking does not help you heal.
  • Antibiotics can lower your inflammation. These can be topical or oral antibiotics.
  • Surgery is sometimes needed for the worst cases. Your provider should know about and have tried treating your HS before you have surgery.
Last reviewed: 
May 2020
Alternative Names: 
Hidradenitis suppurativa

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