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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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Anyone had babies when they've has HS? I have never had a pap smear or anything like that, as I'm to embarressed about my scarring. I'm overweight, so I can just see it now - the DR telling me how fat I am and being shocked at all my scarring on my thighs/pubic area. My question is - how do you deal with the embarresment/warn the Dr?





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Honestly, Marilyn. Getting a good PAP result is so worth the embarrassment BUT most doctors are professionals and they want you to get better. They look at you clinically, like here's my specimen and what can I do with it now type of thing. I was so fearful of sharing any of my health issues but with the encouragement of a friend, I went to see a doctor after years of avoiding them and it is worth the sense of relief. You may not get the doctor that is right for you straight away but you have to go and see them and just discuss your fears about the PAP and your insecurity about your scars. Just make an appointment to go in and talk about it. I always go to a female doctor for PAPs. I lost my doctor after 15 years with her and her husband and I am looking for a new one and have tried out three that are good doctors but none that I have clicked with yet but in the meantime, I have someone I can see when I need to. The PAP only takes a few minutes honestly. Please let me know how your talk goes with the doc. Most docs have online reviews too that you can get a general sense of their bedside manner.

I'm sorry you feel this way. I was in the same boat. Just really embarrassed. But I eventually got to the point where I couldn't handle the pain. my griond and buttocks was bothering me. Very embarrassing. But I realized that even though it's personal the people who help you look past the areas and just want to help you get relief. I guess in the end the relief is worth the embarrassment. Good luck.

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Hi I had suffered with this condition for 30 years now. I once visited a dermatologist who told be to come back when I had a flare up! Well trying to get a hospital appointment so quickly is impossible, therefore over the years I have just put up with them. Within the last 3 weeks I have had a particularly bad flare having 5, always in my groin. This time I actually felt physicaly unwell with a temperature. Has anyone ever tried Turmeric and zinc, if so did this help? Also how do you take the turmeric? Any advise would be so appreciated. Thank you inadvance.





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Hi. I use magnesium tablets. I have only just heard about tumeric, so I'd be interested to hear if it works. I also use a barrier cream (sudocrem- also called healing cream)for my grown as I find my underwear can rub and make it worse. The cream has zinc in it and is designed for pressure sores/nappy rash. So I find it helps my wounds heal quicker than usual, but it also sooths the area and helps to ease the rubbing when you have a flare up

At first I thought its a symptom of HIV because it kept coming. Antibiotics uses to work for me but I relised constant use of it can cause liver diseases. Now trying alternative medicine. But all along iv had the fear its HIV symptom. This site has been so helpful. I'm in Accra, Ghana. All the most doctors here would precribe is antibiotics or suspect you with HIV. Now I know I'm not alone. Making my own research on alternative medicine and would update soon.





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I understand the fear you faced. Some folks scars look like Kaposi's sarcoma legions because they are dark and sometimes raised. Educate your doctor. I diagnosed myself in the 90s when some of the best specialists in the field did not know what it was called. My quality of life has not improved but it was comforting at the time to know that the disease was not my fault or due to hygiene. I was showering 3x a day and the abscesses just kept popping up. Be well.

I have know I've had this since the 5th grade (26) now. It's terrible and embarrassing. I blame it for not ever having a relationship and depression issues. The only thing that has helped me is loose clothing and epsom salt baths twice a week and epsom salt lotion twice a day applied to. The areas. ( armpits, inner thigh and groin) it's a constant struggle and no help from drs ever ! I think treatment is different for everyone because everyone's bodies are different. I feel like genetics may have something to do with it too. My dad had or has it but I've always been too embarrased to talk about it. I feel comforted I'm not alone!





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I know how you feel. I have always broken up relationships when we approached intimacy because of my fear of rejection. I have depression and low self-esteem too. Doctors can only do so much. You have to mail and talk to your politicians to let them know that this disease needs attention because people living with it are suffering. Having open flesh is exposed and feeling like your skin is being scalded with hot water every day or stabbed with a sharp hot iron is not a way for any person to live, let alone the millions of us who have to live with it. Doe snot matter what country you are in. Send a letter to your local health minister and your local representative. If we can get funding for research studies then we can maybe figure out the cause and find a cure. But we need to get people talking about it.

I have been dealing with this for several years, although my case isn't as severe as some it is still very bothersome. I currently am fighting a flare up and am so miserable. I have been on antibiotics since Tuesday and it doesn't seem to be getting any better. I'm so sick of it!!!





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I don't think the antibiotics work. Try not to eat too much sugar/carbs avoid smoking. I use sudocrem (which is a healing cream for nappy rash, it contains zinc and helps heal and sooth). This works wonders for me.

I've had this for over 30 years. My mother and my brother had it. No doctor has ever been able to help. So far, none of my children have developed it but I fear for them. I have gotten used to the pain but not the embarrassment. Sometimes I wonder if enough research goes into this since most of us hide it...? I don't think anyone even knows a good estimation of the population effected because it's not like eczema, we don't want anyone to know! Before the Internet, I didn't even know it had a name. Good luck to you all, I hope they find a cure soon.





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Hey i have had HS for 15 yrs. First had it when I moved to a coastal area and was hit by humidity and i used wear pretty tight clothes too. I consulted number of doctors but no one could diagnose it. Then after sometime I relocated to another city which is pretty dry. That helped me a lot. I realised certain quality of material and humidity was what was causing it. I still have the bumps in my armpits but it very rarely flares up.





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Where to start? This disease is horrible due to the fact that no treatment really ever works. Anyone who does not have this, does not know the pain and suffering we go through. It's unbearable at times and to no that there is no cure is devastating. My sister and I both have it and I wouldn't wish it upon anyone. It's very embarrassing when you go to a dr. and get treated. Just looking at my scarred and always bumpy body is depressing. Just to know I can't wear certain clothes or even a bathing suit is horrible. I sympathize with anyone that has HS and hopefully there will be a cure someday.





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I feel just the same because no one knows I have it I've hidden it for 10 years now it so hard the do anything normal I'm just glad you have your sis to help each over x

I feel for you Nichole. It's so frustrating that there's no cure. I often wonder what I've done to deserve this horrible disease. I don't wear white, as I'm paranoid I'm walking around with a big red stain on my clothes, due to a flare up. One thing you have, is the support (I hope) of your sister, knowing there's someone who understands what oyu're going through and able to talk about it. no-one knows about my illness, except for my husband and parents (not his parents). not even my two brothers, I'm too embarressed to tell them.

Can the infection from all these "knots/cyst" become deadly? I have several around the base and back of my neck. With it being so close to my brain, all this infection scaes me. At times I can't turn my head. It seems to me that my body would be constantly working over time trying to rid itself of so much infection.





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I have had plenty on my neck and one doctor just straight up told me that any time anything is basically at the base of your neck and above, it is way too close to the brain to ignore. If you feel your abscess might become infected, you should go on antibiotics until it clears. We all know they come back though right. I have had many cut out from my neck and have developed bad arthritis, so if you can avoid any excision, please do. Doing breathing and shoulder rolls to alleviate stress in the area helps and I cannot remember the last time I had one there, which was a frequent thing for me before. Best of luck dear.

I've had this condition for 15 years. I've always been too embarrassed to go to a dr. After researching and realising this is what I have I have made a GP apt for this week. I just wish I hadn't been so embarrassed - my entire body is covered in scars and angry red boils. I can't bare to even look at my body in a mirror - it disgusts me and I dont even like my partner to see me in the light. Do the scars fade when you get treatment, or will they remain as angry looking? I suffer from depression too - and feeling so disgusted with myself just adds to it. Yours hopefully,





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Hello there, i'm 15 and also a sufferer of this condition. I just wanted to reassure your querie, I have had an operation under my armpits what will be 2 years ago in July and my scars have healed and faded quite well, and I'm sure will get even more discrete over the years. I really can sympathise with you as mine do tend to flare up now and again, and I'm currently on a new dose of antibiotics after a 6 month course seemed to stop working and I've had a flare up in my groin which has made walking almost unbearable for the past week, obviously creating a problem as I'm in and out of school. I can honestly say that going to your doctor will be very very helpful to you, as they can give you information and may lead you to getting antibiotics and possibly having a similar operation to me, which really makes them more manageable. As for depression I went through this also for a while, as you know the sight and pain really get you down, I was stopped from wearing a lot of clothes I wanted to last summer from embarrassment and dressings, and smell was quite a problem for me as people started to notice, this caused me to be paranoid and when I overheard someone making a comment on how silly or funny my dressings looked under my arms it really really got to me. I'm quite sorry I've written such a large reply, but before I had this condition I'd never heard of anything like it before, so I'd just like to help anyone in the same boat as much as I can with my experiences of about 3 years, believe it or not I haven't even been very detailed! hope this was helpful in some way to you.

Please don't feel disgusted. OK it's not a pleasant thing to deal with, but it is just an illness after all. Nothing you have done to cause it, you are like hundreds of others just unlucky to have HS. It's good you are going to get medical help, but do join a group for H.S. There are plenty out there & it's good to talk over your illness with them. Do try Bio-oil for the scars - it really does help. Good luck & remember you arenot alone, there are plenty f people out theresuffering the same as ou & only too willing to give you helpand support.

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