WARNING: The Embarrassing Bodies website contains images of an explicit medical nature and nudity in a medical context.

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.

I have lived with this condition for almost 30 years. It is a horrible thing. Would like to share some tips. Wash regularly with Seba-Med soap to stop sweat building up. Wear 100% cotton underwear or natural fibres. Wear loose comfortable clothes, not rigid jeans or tight jeans for example, if condition affects the groin area. Don't bikini wax. Ask your doctor for Fucidin cream at the first sign of a boil, this may stop it from becoming worse and can even clear it before there is a need for antibiotics. Hope this helps.





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

Hi I am 38 and have this for abour 6 years. In the start it was like 1 or to a year. But now for the last 4 it is bad. I have a bout 4 to 5 under my arms and my bum and in the legs every 30 days. It is like clock work. Just befor I get pms. It is so painful. It feels like I am sick and durty. I am not over wait an shower 2 maby 3 times a day. Not to get cleen. I just like to feel fres. I sufer v ery bad from depersion an paranoia. So this realy don't not help me. But I try. When I get this I us trek salf and keep it coverd. It maks the skin thin and opens up sooner. And then the skars ... Very bad. Don't wanne swim in sumer whene we have friends I swim alone in the day. And I love to swim. So waht can I do or take to make this beter?





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

hi iv suffered with hs for 30yrs now i hve had them under both armpits and both groins and under my breast and also on my tummy, i also suffer from pilonidal im in pain most of the time iv tried every antibiotic there is and also every scrub nothing helps at all. i sit in the bath 4 or 5times a day when im in real pain, doc just gives me painkillers cause theres nothing they can do for it. the past 2yrs iv not had a break from it iv been in hospital 10times in the past 2yrs iv had surgery each time and i still have got 2 lumps the size of golf balls that are agony. iv just been given antidepressants as i cant take anymore of this pain, i cant see any light at the end of the tunnel so 2 speak. im sick fed up of it now as there is no cure

I have a friend with HS and he has switched to a gluten-free diet and his symptoms have improved dramatically.





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

Hello everyone; my heart goes out to everyone with HS. Just recently I had one red boil that felt like a pimple but hurt like a bugger I took a shower and I ended up popping it (sorry if I'm being too descriptive) but it oozed out creamish puss and it was disgusting. I put a band-aid over it thinking it would be okay and it would heal and go away. 3 Days later I'm showering and I realize there are several more smaller pimple/boils around the big one I just popped. I'm a 14 year old female and getting increasingly worried, no one in my family has seen/had this before. My mother suggested some aloe and diaper cream and that's what in trying now until I can reserve an appointment Monday but I'm 90% sure this is what I have. My question is do you think it will get worse, and spread (like the stories above to my butt and groin) or will it go away? I'm extremely worried and already have numerous dehabilitating illnesses as it is including depression. And has anyone had it so early as 14 and have you had a similar story to mine? Best of luck to everyone





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

Hey Marina! My symptoms started at about that same age. It started with one cyst that was the size of a golf ball and after some testing I was diagnosed with HS. My symptoms have gotten worse. I get small ones on my bum and decently painful ones on my inner thighs. Under my arms is the worst though. It's to the point where I can't really shave them anymore. For a while I was really self conscious about it. But now I am 20 and it bothers me a lot less. If I catch someone staring I just explain what I have and they are typically very understanding and may ask some questions. Good luck!

Hi, I'm 22 and have suffered for 8 - 9 years, but was only diagnosed this year in june. It has irritated the life out of me since it started, although sometimes I went long periods of time without it been too painful, but since june this year I have had 3 operations and it is awful, because I know it will never go and will always re accure. Having these operations are very painful, discomforting and over all depressing. I advise you see your doctor as soon as possible to avoid getting to the stage of surgery. If caught in time it can be controlled by anti biotics. There is loads of treatment they try before surgery so dont be getting too worried, some cases are more severe than others. Hope this helps in some way. All the best.

I am 51 and started getting huge boils in my groin and under my armpits in my early teens, they come and go but seem to come back in the same places there is also one on my waistband area that comes and goes. They have left scars and lumps, when one comes back the pain is terrible, I cant walk or move properly without pain, like a red hot poker jabbing me. I have in the past squeezed one and felt it burst but no pus came out like it usually does, it is a really disgusting, debilitating and degrading condition. I saw a GP many years ago and he said it probably was not cancer.........My grown up son also suffers with boils in the same areas they also started in his early teens, he saw the GP last time a few months ago as he had one as big as an egg in his groin, he told them his Mother also suffers with them, they lanced it and sent him for a blood test, and gave him antibiotics, no diagnosis.





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

After suffering with HS for years and hiding away and being embarrassed about doing or saying anything about it someone I worked with pushed me to go to the doctor and they instantly told me that it was HS. I know how you all feel not being able to wear clothes because it rubs the boils and it feel like your skin is gonna tear off almost like it's made of tissue paper. I've tried so many types of antibiotics that I've now been told that I can't have anymore not that any made any difference to me. And now a 6month wait to see my dermatologist some days I don't want to move or do anything because it hurts too much, people judge you because you cover it up and say that they can't see anything so you must be all right, it drives me mad! I just want someone to go try this and it will go away. I'm 23 and I feel so held back by this on a day to day basis my partner says it doesn't bother him but I feel so embarrassed by the way it looks and feels. And how you can feel all the holes under my skin, I constantly wear cardigans and jumpers even when it's hot just so that people can't see it.





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

Yup that's how mine started out and they told me to wash lol now I have to have surgery regular and stay on anti biotics and pain pills and I'm twenty

hi i am a 17 year old female and i dont have spots anywhere else on my body but i seem to get pimples on my bum if i sweat or from friction of clothes, none of the spots i get are sore just sometimes but not really, some leave scars and others dont, i must of had this problem for almost 6 months now, the doctor said it could be excess oil , follicutilis and im currently on antibtiotics to help clear it up,i was just concerened incase theres a chance that i have Hidradenitis suppurativ in the early stages? or am i just being paranoid? my doctor didnt refer me to a derm because she said it isnt serious and to just keep the area clean but it might develop overtime if it is HS and id really want to prevent that if so? thanks





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

unless they are big, deep, and ooze, probably not. I have holes as big as pencil almost from my HS. ive been suffering for over 20 years. I suggest you wear white only no color or prints and 100% cotton panties. leave the thongs alone and at night, let her breath....(sleep in a night gown with no panties)

Hi, Sadly your story reminds me so much of my own. Mine started at the same age as yourself, purely localised to my bum. When I was 21 I gained my very first groin lump, which quickly became the size of a tennis ball. 'I had it excised' I have since had two removed surgically and biopsied. At which point I was finally diagnosed. They always annoyingly, return a few months later!!! In the same place. Getting infected and very painful!!! My advise to you would be to get tested. Maybe they can medicate you soon enough before you get to stage two like myself! It's debilitating for me as I'm a dental nurse and am currently unable to stand for too long because it is so bad. therefore I can't work! Also you only tend to get some help from the hospital when are in so much pain that you can't walk! I've actually been told to come back in a few days when it's larger!!! :-( good luck but please get tested. I truly hope for your sake that you have just teen age acne that you grow out of!!!! Once again. 'Goodluck!'

Show all replies in this thread

I am 29. I have suffered from boils under my breasts since i was fourteen. Ive seen many Drs, many dermatologists, you name it. I have not been diagnosed with HS although i believe i have it. I use antibacterial soap, it doesn't work but i keep using it. Ive tried numerous antibiotics, creams, have been lanced many time. At the moment i have a really bad one under my breast and have not been able to work all week as it hurts so bad, even when i cough or sneeze. The Dr i am seeing now has suggested a breast reduction. I feel this is my only option now. I watched a video of a breast reduction and its quite scary. After all these years, all the pills, creams, oils and such ive tried i fear a breast reduction is all that's left. I know it wont stop this but i am a 14DD and if i had smaller breasts maybe i would not suffer with every break out. IM sick of having to hold my breasts up constantly when it flares up. I am trying to gather some info on having the sweat glands removed from under my breasts as i would prefer to do that than have a reduction. In saying that, ill do whatever i have too to stop this. :'(





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

I have had his since I was eleven. I am too embarrassed by the foul smell and the scars they leave. I constantly have at least 5 or six around my butt area and then some n my groin and have had them under my arm and on my breast. I am embarrassed to have sex with my husband its hard to wear clothes because they leak and bleed.or even have a job. I wish I could get rid of these.





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

Hello. I've had HS for 20 years, but only been diagnosed about 8 years ago. I've been on various anti-biotics, creams, soaps etc. The only thing that seem to help in my case is Lymecycline tablets, long term use. I saw results after using this for about 3 months. I've now been on these tablets for over 5 years. And although it doesn't take away the boils, they are much less frequent and much smaller in size, and not so painful. I've given up smoking, which made a difference too, and now I'm on a healthy diet, which again seems to make things better. I've had an operation in my groin to remove the apocrine glands, as that was my worst area, and this has made the world of difference. However the ones under my armpits are still there occasionally. My sister in niece got HS as well, and they too are on Lymecycline. My sister no longer has HS, however my niece is still battling with, although it is better when she's on the tablets.





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.


Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your comment.



Please don’t swear or be rude in your comments, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting comments. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines

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





This will be published. Surnames, nicknames or usernames are not allowed


Your email address will be kept confidential and will NOT be published – it is only being collected here in case Channel 4 need to contact you in relation to your answer.



Please don't swear or be rude in your questions, as they will not be added to the site. Please do not use your full name when posting questions. If in doubt, refer to the community guidelines

Questions submitted to the site will be answered by other site users, not by medical professionals, so if you have a medical concern, please book an appointment with your GP.

By posting on this website you are agreeing to abide by our community guidelines


Important Notice

The information provided on this website (including any NHS Choices medical information) is for use as information or for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. We do not warrant that any information included within this site will meet your health or medical requirements. This Embarrassing Bodies site does not provide any medical or diagnostic services so you should always check with a health professional if you have any concerns about your health.


If you want to embed our videos in your site, read our embedding T&Cs here


More Information

  1. Doctor Responses: HS

    In Videos - Dr Christian answers your most frequently asked questions about Hid…

  2. Doctor Responses: Excessive Sweating

    In Videos - Dr Christian answers your most frequently asked questions about exc…

  3. Doctor Responses: Boils

    In Videos - Dr Pixie explains why boils form, what can be done about them and a…

  4. Quick Health Advice: Excessive Sweating

    In Videos - Dr Pixie discusses the causes of excessive sweating and the treatme…

  5. Doctor Responses: Man Boobs

    In Videos - Dr Christian answers your most frequently asked questions about man…

  6. Consultation: Second Adult Circumcision

    In Videos - Dr Jessen examines a patient in need of a new circumcision

  7. Dr Priya Manickavasagar

    Doctor Info - Find out more about Dr Priya.

  8. James Russell

    Doctor Info - Find out more about James Russell.

  9. Consultation: Ichthyosis

    In Videos - Dr Harper treats a women for the skin condition Ichthyosis, with am…

  10. Consultation: Soreness on the Penis

    In Videos - A patient is examined for soreness around his penis

  11. Quick Health Advice: Psoriasis

    In Videos - Dr Harper explains the causes of and treatments available for psor…

  12. Body Check: Sweat

    In Videos - Dr Christian explains the importance of knowing your sweat levels a…

  13. In Detail: Urethral Reconstruction

    In Videos - An in detail look at an operation to reconstruct a man's urethra.

  14. How To Check Your Testicles

    In Videos - Dr Harper's guide to how to self-check your balls against testicula…

  15. Dr Christian Jessen

    Doctor Info - Find out more about Dr Christian


Help Beat Cancer

Download our free mobile game to help Reverse The Odds in the fight against cancer.

Available on App Store, Google Play and Amazon App Store >