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Conditions

Hidradenitis Suppurativa

Hidradentitis suppurativa in the armpit

With a name like hidradenitis suppurativa, it’s perhaps not immediately obvious what kind of condition we’re going to tell you about. However, if you take a moment to look up “suppuration” in the dictionary, you’ll discover that it means “the formation or discharge of pus”, which should start to give you an idea. Hidradenitis is a chronic and stubborn skin disease centred on inflammation of the large specialised sweat glands (apocrine glands) that are found mainly in the armpits and groin area. These areas show a distinctive mixture of boil-like lumps, areas leaking pus, and scarring, which can be itchy, but usually painful, and the lumps hurt if they are pressed. Aside from the pain and unpleasantness of the condition, it can also be embarrassing and unsightly. There are possibly over 100,000 sufferers in the UK alone with this condition, which can be difficult to treat, although there are a number of treatments that can be tried including medications and surgery.

HS is a chronic condition which is managed rather than cured and can unfortunately flare up again even after it has appeared to improve. Further information and support on living with the condition can be obtained by contacting the Hidradenitis Suppurativa Trust.

Watch the Live from the Clinic interactive case video on hidradenitis suppurativa >

Get Involved With A New HS Study

It is estimated that 1% of the population have HS. However the figure could be higher due to lack of recognition. Current management of HS can be unsatisfactory, so more research is needed regarding this distressing condition. The UK Dermatology Clinical Trials Network has set up a Priority Setting Partnership, using the James Lind Alliance model, to tackle this issue. The partnership includes patients (including the Hidradenitis Suppurativa Trust), carers, dermatologists, dermatology nurses, GPs, surgeons and psychologists. The central task is to identify uncertainties about HS and its management, then to prioritise the top 10 selected issues for future research.

To get involved in this research please follow this link to fill out an online survey >

Comments and Questions

The EB doctors have been looking at your comments and have answered some of the common questions below. Remember that it is always best to check with a health professional if you have any concerns about your health.

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I'm 46 and have suffered from HS for 28 years now but was only finally diagnosed about 2 years ago and given an ongoing course of antibiotics that I assume will continue for years to come. I have had SO many hospital admissions over the years that I lost count a long time ago, I am scarred all over and had one armpit cut open and scraped out, the other was just removed, that was about 15 years ago. I go through periods of nothing and then BOOM!! My current flare up has been since Christmas, 5 months of one after the other after the other with no respite. My GP pretty much lets me tell them what treatment I need at the time ie drainage, antibiotics etc. Currently my work is suffering due to having to take time off when I struggle to walk or drive, and my GP is monitoring me for depression ...again! I've never been online about my condition as I thought I was alone but now I see I am not and see that some others are much worse than me, I can only imagine how poorly you must feel. I'm currently applying Sudocrem to new lumps to see if the zinc content works in preventing any but I'm looking at further cuts to my sugar intake too. Stress appears to be the major factor for me.





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Wow ...I was starting to think i was the only person with hs.....I'm not yay ...sorry but this is a horrible thing for any one I have suffered since I was 8 I'm now 39...iv had my armpits cut out which made them go to my groin area I find that period time I brake out bad ...iv tried bleach baths ..salt bath ..dettol baths ..peroxide ..benedine...long term antibiotics all sorts of them and still nothing ...just got out of hospital for a perianul abcess and have them everywhere ATM.....my doctors can only say give up smoking and lose weight go figure I wasn't smoking at age 8 I'm at my end with them and I would greatly appricate any advice anyone has that has slowed them down or worked .......thanks for reading and I hope everyone with this horrible thing over comes it one day 😊





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I have had this disorder for yrs and it is soooo painful and digusting to look at and deal with. Ive been on doxycycline for yrs and its the only thing that prevents flair ups. I get boils under my breasts and in between my thighs and now in my pubic area where the hair grows. My dermatalogist told me to bathe in bleach water twice a week use hydrogen peroxide and NOT to shave because shaving makes it worse. I dont get them under my armpits which I find unusual but when I do get flare up, I put alcohol on them to try and dry them out before they burst. Ive also found that covering them with fabric bandaids right when one appears helps stop them from getting bigger. Once they do burse I havent found ANYTHING that helps them heal faster. I put petroleum jelly then bandaids until they close up. My dermatologist told me today that the FDA just proved humira a arthritis med for this condition but it takes up to a year to notice results. You have to give yourself shits twice a week. For now ill just stick to my antibiotic pills until they no longer work which my doctor says they will.





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*shots

I haven't been officially diagnosed but I can relate as I keep getting these stubborn boil type lesions under my right underarm. I've been convinced that I'd nicked the skin through shaving as that seemed to be when it started. But come to think of it it does tend to flare up around period and the other day I had one on my left labia but when I squeezed it I was free from pain.





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I've had this since I was 18 in both my armpits and groin areas and am 32 next month. I found it flared up in my armpits when using roll ons and so only used sprays for a while, but have found in the recent years I am able to use roll ons again, but have to ensure I regularly shave as sweat clinging to hair has been a major factor to flare ups. My groin area is a lot more sensitive. Flares can be due to sweat (especially when hair is present) but I would get a regular break out every month when my period is due. I tried going on the contraceptive injection but this would cause huge boils each time it was administered so had to come off it. Tried the pill instead, but had the same effect. In recent years I have found that flares are soothed by using bath salt and antiseptic disinfectant in my bath daily and so have taken to doing this all the time while ensuring areas are kept hair free, washing straight after sex and treating the area regularly with tea tree oil, most especially after hair removal, which has lengthened the time between flares (sometimes months). However these practices just keep it at bay. If I allow hair to grow, sweat to rest, become highly stressed or fall asleep straight after sex, a flare comes within the next 12-24 hours. As a fitness instructor I find my job can be counterproductive to managing this condition and I also suffer from idiopathic urticaria (unknown caused allergy) which I was prescribed fexofenadine but am no longer responsive so my body is usually covered in hives at the same time as a HS flare up. This of course is not helpful to my stress levels but each time it happens I learn something new about what causes it and how to manage it better. My longest remission has been 10 months and am determined to get on top of both the HS and the urticaria which is definitely food related but more due to quantities of different foods than anything in particular. But I would definitely recommend bathing with salt and disinfectant to anyone currently going through a HS flare up to help soothe itching and reduce boils or even just introducing it into your lifestyle all together.





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Hi I have hs too and have had this for the last 16 years. It's horrible and very painful. I get it in the groin area so am uncomfortable all of the time. I have only just been told what the condition is after many years of seeing gynecologist and many stays in hospital. I feel for anyone having to live with this horrible and painful condition it's just awful. I have lost my job due to this condition and also relationships. Iam currently on antibiotics for 3 months but to be honest iam still having lumps come up. They used to be on one side but now have spread to the other side just feels like you can't win with this condition.





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I have been diagnosed with HS, Just entered Stage 2, I just hate the scarring, I also tested +ve for MRSA, just finished a 6 month course of Doxycycline,which helped a little but I have still had lesions, the just didn't last as long thus no time to burrow deeper into my skin. Currently have a large golf ball sized lesion on my upper buttocks which is making sitting down a tremendous challenge to day the least. Still I am soldiering on and make it into work each day. I fear this lesion will need draining which will mean a stay in hospital. I read an article that the diabetes drug Metaformin can help has anyone tried this? I have an appointment with my Dermatologist next week see what she thinks. BTW, my GP gives me Hibiscrub to wash with when bad which seems to help a little, I also get my dressings and they give me a prescription for Flucoxicillin which I can just take to the chemist at first sight of a flare.





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I tried metformin, spironilactone, various hormones, orthotricycline, tetricycline, doxycycline, bactrum, Accutane, different steroids, all kinds of anti-inflammatories, ice packs, changed what I ate, changed what I wore, received hundreds of corticosteroid injections directly into swollen nodules (already glowing red and radiating heat and pain everywhere around it)...all which ultimately fail (meaning the relief is only temporary, usually short lived) . I've been prescribed Humira now. I've not yet received and begun treatment yet. I'm 32 and fear progression of HS!! I now just try to manage symptoms until I get a few stubborn lumps that test my pain tolerance, and it's off to the doctor again for an even more painful injection so I can shorten the pain/recovery time. ...help...I'm scared I'm falling into a depression...and I have no energy .I feel alone and guilty as I can't do the things my family expects/wants me to do . I sometimes limp around home like I'm 80.

I'm 17 and have all the symptoms of hs I've been to the doctors numerous times about it, they have confirmed I have hs but have done nothing since, they have given me antibiotics and gel that has not worked, I have asked to be refered to guys and st Thomas hospital as they have a clinic there or something for hs but My doctor has done nothing to help me, should I just go to a&e and see if that will help with getting help? Thanks.





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Hi,I really feel sorry for everybody that has to live with this I know how sore and painful it can get.iv had the condition now for over 10 years but it has completely cleared up in the last two.it started under one armpit as a small red lump then got bigger and bigger until it eventually burst..it then started under my other armpit and then just above my bum.i first went to the doc,told me what I had and referred me to a dermatologist.he then told me again what I had and said he wouldn't operate as it wasn't bad enough.and to be honest the surgery for it sounds horrendous and it's not a final fix.anyway I carried on living with it trying to blank the pain out and waiting on the relief when they burst I went to a and e twice as the pain got so bad and back to the doc to be given tablets again that didn't work..I got referred again to a dermatologist but this time I never went. I thought right iv had enough.i researched as much as I could and something that kept coming up was diet and a lack off certain vitamins and how much off our immune system lives in our gut and how we feed it with certain minerals/vitamins to keep it healthy..don't get me wrong I'm not overweight I'm pretty healthy and fit and in no means I am saying that being overweight causes hs..what I am saying is that I do believe that hs is caused by the lack off certain minerals/vitamins which as sufferers we just don't have enough off them in our bodies.(gut).i would love for every person that has hsto be tested and see what comes up regarding this..cause iv never been able to pin point it yet..all I do know is that by introducing certain foods and eliminating others has worked a treat for me and iv now not had a flare up coming up two years..I am right who knows it worked for me and I know that popping pills and all the creams under the sun didn't..and as for surgery I'm glad I didn't get put forward.hope this helps as I know how bad it gets.

You should ask your GP to send you to a Dermatologist for at least confirmation that is is definitely HS. If they refuse to ask the practice manager to send you for a second opinion. Going to A&E is an option of you have a badly infected lesion or a large abscess that needs draining. Hopefully, you will see a dermatologist very soon at least they can support you properly.

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Hi well I'm New to this however I've had hs for 26 years! I've been on the same antibiotic for more than 2 years and was wondering if this is normal





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I have already posted on here three times, but only finding 2 maybe because it had a link. Any way I have had this for 13 yrs. One in particular for about 8 yrs that refuses to go away. I was only diagnosed a few days ago and found some things that successful stories had in common. This is cause by a food allergy which also a leaky gut. We have an immune disorder. So since i cannot afford to get a food allergy test since i have wasted enough on antibiotics and creams, gels and soaps. I will try the paleo diet. It's not how clean you try and get because i would take 3 showers a day and use special soaps my doctor would recommended. No help there. I started thinking yes these people are on to some thing. You pretty much eat organic take out dairy, nightshade veggies, refined sugar, that fake sugar doesnt help either it's not healthy anyway, peanuts and no dairy. Also grass fed meats only. Then slowly add one item each few week. Started this yesterday. Hope they are right!





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Yes, please do try it. I have posted here before. These are all good things to do. Remember drinks too, keep caffeine to a minimum, avoid sugary pop - also remember that white potatoes and pasta are basically sugar once ingested so should be avoided. Also try to incorporate coconut oil into your diet. It is antibacterial and antifungal so not only can you eat it to clean up your insides but it is great to put onto your skin to help reduce inflammation and heal.


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