Hidradenitis Suppurativa, also known as HS, is a chronic skin condition which causes hard, solid lumps and abscesses to form on and under the skin. It can affect anyone, but most commonly occurs in women.
There is relatively little known about the causes of Hidradenitis Suppurativa, and the treatments are therefore limited. Further research needs to be done in order to fully understand the condition, what causes it and how it might be prevented and treated. There are, however, working theories which have proven to be effective for many patients suffering from Hidradenitis Suppurativa.
The causes of Hidradenitis Suppurativa are still largely unknown, with more research into this condition needed. It is widely believed that the abscesses develop when hair follicles become blocked, much in the same way as zits or acne develop on the face.
What we do know is that the abscesses usually form around hair follicles near sweat glands. The most common areas affected by the condition are the armpits, under the breasts, and around the buttocks and groin. The lumps can spread to nearby areas such as the inner thighs, nape of the neck and around the waist. In more serious cases, the lumps may spread to other areas too.
We also know that the condition tends to affect women more than it does men, with a total of around 1% of the population suffering from some form of Hidradenitis Suppurativa.
There are some factors which are strongly associated with Hidradenitis Suppurativa, even if they haven’t been directly proven as causes. These factors include:
As Hidradenitis Suppurativa tends to first develop in patients after puberty, and often flares up around the menopause, there is an argument to suggest that the condition is linked to hormonal changes.
There is a scale of symptoms associated with Hidradenitis Suppurativa. Some of these are relatively minor, whereas others are painful and can lead to more serious complications. Symptoms include:
Patients usually develop a firm lump, around the size of a pea, in one place. The lump may disappear of its own accord, or may burst and release pus. There is a strong chance that new lumps will develop close to the original lump. In rare cases, these hard lumps may develop a bacterial infection, and will therefore require treatment with antibiotics.
Many people with Hidradenitis Suppurativa may not even know that they have the condition. Mild cases of the skin condition may not require treatment, as symptoms may go away of their own accord. As the causes of the condition are still largely unknown, direct treatments can be difficult. There are three types of treatment most commonly associated with Hidradenitis Suppurativa:
In mild cases of Hidradenitis Suppurativa, low-level doses of antibiotics may be prescribed by a doctor or pharmacist. This is mainly used to control inflammation, making lumps less likely to develop across the body. A course of these antibiotics will normally be prescribed for a minimum of three months at a time, and will hopefully stop as many lumps from developing. In some cases, a doctor may choose to prescribe a topical antibiotic, to be applied directly to the affected area.
Especially painful and swollen lumps, particularly those oozing pus, will be prescribed stronger antibiotics, as an infection may be present. A swab will usually be taken before prescribing these drugs, to check that there is an infection first.
Antiseptic skin washes can be used to try to reduce the amount of lumps which form on the skin. They are usually associated with acne, but have been successful in some cases of Hidradenitis Suppurativa as well.
Retinoids are medications where the main active ingredient is vitamin A. They are also more commonly used as acne medication, but have also been prescribed alongside other treatments for Hidradenitis Suppurativa with success for some patients. The large dosage of vitamin A means that pregnant women should not take retinoids.
There are several things you can do to reduce your chances of developing Hidradenitis Suppurativa, or of experiencing flare-ups in the future. These include:
There are many people who associate dietary changes with improvements in their Hidradenitis Suppurativa. There is no single diet which has been proven as a cure or foolproof preventative measure against Hidradenitis Suppurativa, but there are certain foods which may have a link to the condition. Further research into the causes of Hidradenitis Suppurativa is needed in order to establish a cure or a robust method of prevention. There is, however, limited evidence to suggest that certain dietary changes may improve the condition, if only slightly. These changes include:
There are no perfect cures for Hidradenitis Suppurativa, but there are certain professionals who believe that particular foods might help to control the symptoms of the condition and prevent flare-ups. For example, foods which are rich in fiber are known to help maintain hormonal balance and release energy slowly to stabilise blood sugar levels. Eating healthily and avoiding processed foods may help to minimise the condition, as well as including the following foods in your diet:
Popular diets which claim to be effective for people who have been diagnosed with Hidradenitis Suppurativa include:
Autoimmune protocol (AIP)
The AIP diet is supposed to help restore the immune system and the mucous in the gut. It is marketed to be beneficial for people suffering from inflammatory diseases, including Hidradenitis Suppurativa. As with many popular diets, there is very little hard evidence to suggest that this diet actually has an effect on medical conditions.
The Whole30 diet works on the basis that certain food groups have negative effects on your overall health. It claims that some foods are more difficult for us to digest and therefore put undue stress on the body.
These diets may have some positive effect by improving a person’s nutrition, and by helping them to lose weight, which may be linked to Hidradenitis Suppurativa. However, as there is little understanding of the causes of Hidradenitis Suppurativa, there is also little proof that these diets have any positive impact on preventing, curing or minimising the condition.