We’ve had a lot of comments to the site about a condition called hidradenitis suppurativa. It’s a bit of a mouthful, so I’m going to call it HS from now on. But you seem to be worrying about it, and you want to know what it is, and how do you know if you’ve got it. Well, it is a really nasty condition, usually caused by some sort of infection in a particular type of sweat glands, and it gives you nasty, suppurating, pussy sores and boils under your armpits, in women it can occur under the breasts, and in both sexes around the groin and around your bottom.
A lot of you want to know how you tell the difference between HS and acne. Acne causes little blackheads and whiteheads, pussy white spots, usually on the forehead and face, on the chest and on the back. HS causes a lot worse lesions, it causes hard red nodules and suppurating pussy lesions that can burst and leak. It causes the skin to be red and sore.
We’ve had a lot of questions on preventative measures—if you have it, what can you do to try and help it a little bit? Well, best things are to avoid tight clothing and to avoid synthetic fabrics, because anything that makes you sweat and that rubs and irritates the skin will make HS worse. If you’ve got it and the lesions are red and pussy, then warm baths, often with a little bit of anti-bacterial detergent in, or actually salt water, can be very effective in helping the pain and helping bring the pus out.
A lot of people have left comments on the site asking what the most effective treatments are. Well, if you are diagnosed with HS, the first thing we usually try is an antibiotic, because very often it’s caused by a bacterial infection. Now, be warned, you may need to take the antibiotics for a long time, a period of six months or more, before you notice any difference. Anti-inflammatory drugs work well to reduce the redness and the swelling, and steroids also, over a short period of time, can dampen down the infection and the severity of the problem. There’s a drug called roaccutane, which is used for severe acne, that can also be very effective for HS, and as a final resort, surgery to remove the infected skin can work as a permanent solution.
A lot of comments have been left about the scarring that HS causes and what can be done about it. Well, the truth is, the best way to avoid the scarring is to diagnose the condition early and get it treated early. That way, the scars shouldn’t set in, and the best way to do that is, if you’re worrying about any sort of lesions on your body, under your armpits or groin, is to go and see your GP.
Doctor Responses: Hidradenitis Suppurativa
Dr Christian answers your most frequently asked questions about Hidradenitis Suppurativa such as: What causes it? What are the treatments for it? What’s the difference between HS and acne?
With thanks to the Baker Street Medical Centre
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