Is a hidradenitis suppurativa cure available? Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) is a condition that starts as pimple bumps on the skin. These bumps develop on similar surfaces that pimples usually appear like groins and underarms. Unlike pimples, these bumps are painful.
HS tends to begin after puberty. The condition can last for several years and may even worsen with time. This may adversely affect you emotionally and also your daily life. To help manage symptoms, early diagnosis and treatment are paramount.
Hidradenitis Suppurativa symptoms
HS usually develops around hair follicles surrounded by numerous sweat glands like the anal area, groin, and armpits. The disease also forms in areas where skin rubs together. Such places include between buttocks, thighs, and breasts. It’s prudent to note that HS can occur in one part of the body or various regions.
Some common signs and symptoms include:
- Red soft bumps: after a while, these bumps enlarge, open up and release pus sometimes with odor. Burning or itching sensations may also accompany it.
- Blackheads: tiny parts of the skin may have pairs of blackheads.
- Painful lumps: HS lumps are hard, pea size and painful. Over time, they may enlarge and inflame.
- Tracts: with time, tunnels form joining the lump and skin. As the wound heals, it leaks and pus flows out through the tracts developed.
What causes Hidradenitis Suppurativa?
HS occurs as a result of the hair follicle getting blocked and inflamed. It’s not known why the blockage occurs. It’s believed that hormones, smoking, genetics, being overweight and metabolic syndrome are significant contributors in causing these blockages.
Contrary to what many people believe, HS is not contagious nor can it be transmitted sexually. Poor hygiene or infection do not cause it. However, it’s common after puberty and before menopause, HS is associated with sex hormones.
HS risk factors
- Sex: women have higher chances of developing HS than men.
- Smoking: excessive consumption of tobacco has been proven to increase chances of developing HS.
- Age: women aged 20 to 29 are more susceptible to HS. Those who develop the condition early indicate widespread signs of the disease.
- Family history: chances of developing HS can be inherited.
- Other conditions: other conditions such as obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and severe arthritis increase your chances of having HS.
Hidradenitis Suppurativa stages
HS begins as a small lesion in one part of the body. Within a month, the lesion may resolve or rapture leaking pus. If the condition is not addressed in time, additional lumps appear close to the first one. Narrow channels below the skin develop. They ooze pus when opened.
The stage is classified in stages as follows:
- Stage 1: one or few lesions appear but no sign of channels (sinus tracts).
- Stage 2: subsequent abscesses occur in various parts of the body and sinus tracts start developing.
- Stage 3: numerous abscesses appear in the entire body, many sinus tracts appear and oozing of pus and scarring is noticeable.
During diagnosis, photos may be taken by your physicians. They are used to monitor specific changes on your skin at particular time intervals. This is important when managing the condition.
Severe HS can cause the following complications:
- Infections: Affected parts are prone to infections.
- Skin changes: HS wounds may leave scars and patches on the skin making it appear darker than usual.
- Movement restriction: Since the scars are painful and tend to occur in areas involved in body movements, they can restrict movements.
- Inhibits lymph drainage: Most body parts affected by HS have numerous lymph nodes. Scars affect the drainage system causing swollen genitals, arms, and legs.
- Social isolation: HS location, odor, and drainage may make one feel embarrassed and hesitant to socialize. This isolation leads to sadness and depression.
- Cancer: Although rare, patients suffering from severe HS may develop squamous cell carcinoma.
When you visit your doctor, he/she will exam signs and symptoms on the affected part of the skin. Your doctor will also check your medical history and as you a few questions about the condition.
Currently, there is no laboratory test to diagnosis and pinpoint hidradenitis suppurativa. However, your doctor may get a sample of pus if present, and request tests to ascertain whether other skin disorders such as boil contributed.
HS has no cure. However, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for controlling pain, preventing new lumps and foster healing. Fortunately, there are treatment options you can use. Speak to your doctor about them to understand their benefits, surgical procedures and how to use them.
Some of the medications your doctor may prescribe include:
- Retinoids: they include medicine derived from retinoid or vitamin A. Although they are commonly used in treating acne, retinoids are also helpful in managing HS. However, they should only be used as prescribed by your dermatologist. Use them with caution and avoid during pregnancy.
- Inflammation-reducing drugs: steroids can be used to reduce inflammation. They can either be injected into the nodules or taken orally. However, they may have side effects when used for long.
- Hormones: hormone treatment has proved effective like antibiotics when managing HS. It’s not recommended for pregnant women because of side effects.
- Immune system-suppressing drugs: since HS can be caused by an irregular immune system, drugs that suppress the system may be used to neutralize it. However, it may have side effects including heart disease, cancer, and infections. These drugs neutralize proteins that trigger the immune system. Research is underway.
- Pain relievers: your doctor may prescribe strong pain relievers when over the counter ones no longer help.
- Antibiotics: your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for painful lumps oozing pus. Since secondary infections are less common in HS, swabbing the affected area is recommended. Antibiotics are also used to suppress the formation of new lumps. This prescription may last for three months.
- Antiseptics: sometimes your doctor may advise you to apply antiseptic washes on the affected area. This goes alongside other treatments prescriptions given. 4% chlorhexidine is a common antiseptic when dealing with HS. It’s important to follow the prescriptions or advise from your doctor when applying such products.
Surgical procedures can also be used to treat hidradenitis suppurativa. The method selected depends on the locations of the wound and the severity of the condition. Some of these approaches include:
- Uncovering tunnels by cutting away skin and flesh blocking connected channels.
- Punch debridement for removing inflamed nodules.
- Incision and drainage for treating a small area to help in reducing pain.
- For patients suffering from severe HS, tissue sparing excision with electrosurgery is appropriate for removing infected tissue and protecting healthy tissue.
- Surgical removal is effective when treating severe and recurring HS. It involves the removal of infected tissues and grafting another one to close the wound.
Home and lifestyle remedies
Self-care treatment is vital for managing mild hidradenitis suppurativa. They can also be used with other medical procedures. To reduce pain, discomfort and heal fast, the following suggestions may help:
Follow a recommended daily skin care routine. Use nonsoap cleanser when washing your body. Avoid using items that irritate your skin. To manage odor, use antibacterial wash and antiperspirants to keep the skin dry.
- Apply warm water using a wet cloth to reduce pain and swelling.
- Avoid putting on tight clothes and using products that irritate your skin.
- Don’t pop pimples and avoid activities may injure your skin.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
- Change your diet frequently.
- Avoid smoking or using tobacco products.
HS may last for many years. Early treatment assists in taking appropriate measures to make you feel better and reduce the risk of flare-ups. In worst-case scenarios, HS causes scars and may recur. In such cases, it’s prudent to change your lifestyle.
Most patients usually confuse HS with other similar conditions including:
While they may appear similar, HS varies since it is very specific on where it occurs. You can distinguish HS because it forms in areas of the body where skin contact occurs. Also, lumps tend to recur in these body parts unlike other conditions.
Hidradenitis Suppurativa resembles acne or boils. Whenever you notice any symptoms, make an effort to see your dermatologist for early diagnosis and treatment. The right treatment for the right disease depends majorly on diagnosis. Most importantly, seek support from friends and family.