If you’ve noticed unusual breakouts in your underarm and groin area, you may have a rare inflammatory skin condition called hidradenitis suppurativa. Since this condition is diagnosed in only 200,000 people per year in the US, it can often be a struggle to receive a proper diagnosis.
Furthermore, since HS (also called acne inversa) can look like everyday pimples, cysts, blackheads, folliculitis, and boils, your primary care doctor may miss the opportunity to diagnose you or refer you to a dermatologist when you first present with symptoms.
What Are the Common Symptoms of HS?
Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) usually begins with what looks like everyday acne and/or blackheads. As it worsens, however, these pimple-like bumps grow deep into the skin where they become painful and may even rupture, causing foul-smelling, bloodstained pus to leak out onto your clothing.
Flare-ups of this condition are usually cyclic, meaning they form, burst, heal, scar, and form again. Not only are the breakouts painful and embarrassing to deal with, but the scars that form from these flares can also thicken in the underarm and groin area, restricting arm movement and making it difficult to walk.
Unlike common acne breakouts, hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) forms where skin touches skin. This means the most common places you’ll see outbreaks on your body is under your arms, in your groin area (genitals, anus), buttocks, upper thighs, and underneath your breasts.
In rare cases, HS can also crop up on the face, neck, back, ear, or bellybutton.
The Skin Cancer Connection
Even though HS appears on skin that gets little to no sun exposure, a few people with this condition have developed squamous cell carcinoma, a common type of skin cancer, in places where they have had continual breakouts and scarring for years.
Most of these skin cancer cases developed in men who had HS on their genitals or around their anus.
Hidradenitis Suppurativa Is Not an STD
Because of the nature and placement of the breakouts, those who are not yet diagnosed with HS may think they have an STD. HS is a chronic inflammatory skin condition, not an STD, and your dermatologist will be able to confirm that.
Hidradenitis Suppurativa Must Be Treated
Due to fear and embarrassment, some HS sufferers might be reluctant to go to a doctor. However, without proper treatment, HS can progress due to continual healing and scarring, which can lead to the development of fistulas inside the body, which require surgery to repair. Also, as mentioned previously, it can increase your risk of developing skin cancer.
Risk Factors for Hidradenitis Suppurativa
Some people are more at risk of developing HS than others. For example, overweight or obese people, smokers, individuals with PCOS, individuals with inflammatory bowel disease (especially Crohn’s disease), those with follicular occlusion disorders, genetic keratin disorders, and those who take lithium.
Moreover, women are three times more likely to develop this disease than men.
At What Age Does Hidradenitis Suppurativa Develop?
HS usually develops around the age when puberty begins (ages 11 to 16). Occasionally, it does develop in those who are younger and those who have already experienced menopause (age 55 and beyond), but those are rare occurrences.
How Do I Get Tested for Hidradenitis Suppurativa?
A dermatologist can diagnose this condition.
What Treatments Can I Expect?
A conventional dermatologist will most likely treat HS with antibiotics, prescription acne medication, and, in some cases, bleach baths when certain harmful bacteria colonize on your skin.
These approaches are designed to help reduce inflammation, fight infection, prevent new breakouts from developing, and prevent your condition from worsening overall.
Hidradenitis suppurativa is a rare but treatable condition. Be sure to seek your diagnosis from a dermatologist if you suspect you have this disease. An accurate diagnosis is your first step in and managing this condition with conventional or natural treatments.
More Resources for Hidradenitis Suppurativa
Click on the links to the books below to learn more about HS and how to treat it.