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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.

You can share your experiences and thoughts with other Embarrassing Bodies site-users below. Comments & Questions are reviewed by moderators, but if you see anything on the site that worries you, please report it and one of our moderators will look at it as soon as possible.
Please note: Unfortunately Channel 4 cannot respond to individual inquiries. If you have any concerns, you can check out NHS Choices, but ultimately it is always best to check with a health professional.

hi, 20 year old male. Just got diagnosed, been having problems with boils on and off for over 12 months but recently its been diagnosed as HS. I did research and read everyone's comments and my sympathy goes out to everyone. But, I'm worried about what sort of future I face with HS. So far its only been under the left armpit and I'm fighting it with antibiotics and incisions but, yeah just worried about what's next, does it go away for a bit, or get worse from here on in. and how worse, does it get extremely worse for everyone in the end or?





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Hello, I'm 40 and have also tried many medications that haven't worked. The only thing that has helped ease the size, duration, and pain are monthly steroid shots in the boils from my dermatologist. These shots are very small doses but they help the boils go down alot quicker, so less pain and scarring. I wish I knew about this treatment years ago as my body is also marked with dozens of embarrassing scars. I truly feel this treatment is worth talking to your doctor about and hope it helps.





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Hi, my daughter has HS on both inner thighs. She also has male pattern baldness, an allergy to rayon in tampax, borderline thyroid, and has now developed an intolerance to lactose. We are at our wits end and are not getting any answers. She is overweight but finds it virtually impossible to lose any. Can you help? Any answers would be greatly appreciated as it is really knocking her confidence now which is obviously upsetting.





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Hi I'm 21 and I have had this horrible disease since I was 16 I had to be home schooled because I was missing to many days in high school I had hs under my arms but I ended up having the skin graft done and I thought my worries were over but then the hs started attacking my groin this is on a whole different level of depressing the doctors are afraid to operate down there I have tried medications shots pills you name it I've done it nothing seems to work I cry almost every day just because I'm tired of ppl telling me there's nothing else they can do it hurts very bad I have no social life because I'm afraid that ppl can smell that horrible smell I take like 3baths a day I am a 21 year old girl who has a boyfriend and has no sex life I'm to embarrass to let him see it I just don't understand why this had to happen to me To any of us and why is there nothing that doctors can do at the end of the day yes hs hurts but to me hs is more depressing than anything





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i know exactly how you feel i was diagnosed at age 28 and i am now 49. i have done everything that the dermatologist has suggested and nothing works. my body is so scared up and i am ashamed of it. and yes very depressed. my dr. recommended humira. but my insurance denied it because it hasn't been approved by the fda for hs. and it does have a lot of side effects. i am not able to work because of it. and im to afraid to apply for disability because my dr said he dosen't know of anyone who has gotten approved for disability with hs. i so understand where u are coming from. i am married and i have a son. and i always have the lights off during sex and whenever im changing my clothes. i don't know why it happened to me either. all we can do is pray that someday soon we will get a cure for it. but please know u are not alone.

hi nina i feel your pain iv had hs for 30yrs now, iv lost count of the operations i have had. i am now on antidepressant because of this illness. i take 3 or 4 baths a day to try and burst them to give me some relief. iv had both armpits removed by plastic surgeon and in my groin areas iv lost count of the ops i have had, i also suffer from pilonidal when iv got hs and pilonidal at same time i feel i dont want to be here because of the pain,when i get stressed i seem to have a flare up real quick an abcess can appear within an hour when im stressed, as i am writting this i have 3abcesses and the doctor just game me an antibiotic that dosent work i try and not get stressed and i find this does help me a little good luck hope you get better

I just wanted to tell everybody that when I go in a tanning bed regularly, my hs goes into remission. I think that uv light prevents flare ups, but this is only demonstrated in my extremely small (just me) sample.





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I suffer with cysts under my breasts and look to have symptoms of HS under my arms and between my thighs. I am in a lot of pain when both flare up. I have been to my GP many times and have been tested for diabeties. MRSA. White blood cell counts. Immunity the lot. They have all come back negative. I an using an antibacterial wash which doesnt seem to help. My GP told me there is nothing he can do and wont refer me to dermatologist. HELP i dont know what else to do......how did you get operations and treatment?





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Hi fellow suffers I have had HS for many years. I have had every antibiotic under the sun, loads of operations ,and gone past the menopause but still get these horrid things.It got so bad I even lost my job due to having HS. The only thing I do now is sit in a hot bath for as long as I can and try to burst them....





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I have suffered with HS for years now but more recently I got a boil right on the line where the leg meets the groin (where the undies line goes) it seemed to go down without bursting and left and black and blue scar. but now when i press on where it was or if my undies rub hard of that part i get a severe burning feeling that runs through. Im scared ot burst inside because the pain is excrutiating when pressure is put on it. Can anyone help?





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I have had this since I was 17. I get them primarily under my arms. I am 26 now and feel fortunate that I can count on one hand the amount I've gotten on my lower areas. I also have a kidney condition which they always said one comes with the other. So getting treated is a bit harder. I lance them myself. It can be painful but in the long run it helps me get through the work day.





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Hi I suffer with these every week so painfull I get them under my arm in my groin on my stomach the ones on my legs an groin go the size of tennis balls and are very painfull these are so embarrassing theres only certain people I tell I have 1,2,3,4 at the same time it gets to the point I cant shut my legs, these are also affectining my work life because I'm always off work I'm only 31 but with these the way they are I dont even want to reach 32





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I know exactly how you feel im 32 an suffer with them under my arm legs groin and stomach and they are so painful keep being told I need to loose weight due to this plus a bad knee polysistic overies which make it harder to lose weight and now I have rosacea on my face to and I feel crap





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It looks like no one else has asked this question, so please fill in the rest of your details below.





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