Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) is a painful skin condition that’s often long-term. Whilst it can mimic acne, HS is mostly found in the skin folds, or places where skin rubs together. It’s most common in the groin, armpits, breasts and buttocks, but in some cases might appear in any other places where your skin meets.
The cause of the condition isn’t yet known, but factors such as obesity and being a smoker are likely to increase your chances of suffering from the condition. There are also other conditions which are linked to hidradenitis suppurativa such as Crohn’s Disease and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
It isn’t overly common, only affecting around 1% of the population, but the pain that the condition causes can often be debilitating.
HS is defined by small lumps that can rupture or disappear, but in the vast majority of cases, they’re recurrent, showing in the same area or nearby. Over time if the condition goes untreated, it may form tunnels under your skin connecting the lumps to each other. These may also leak pus occasionally.
Whilst there’s no cure for hidradenitis suppurativa, it can be managed with lifestyle changes, medication, and in some cases, surgery.
Below are some common Hidradenitis Suppurativa medicines. Please note, this is not an exhaustive list and other non-medical methods may be more suitable. If you would like to learn more about these options, then please click here. Before receiving medication you must answer a number of questions to asses your suitability. All questions are reviewed by a GMC registered doctor before a final decision is made. All medication is dispensed via a full regulated and registered UK pharmacy. All medication is dispensed via a full regulated and registered UK pharmacy. All prices displayed on our site include the price of the medication and our doctors consultation fee.
Dr. Daniel Cichi
Our Health Care Team
"Hidradenitis Suppurativa is often a very painful condition to live with. Whilst is only affects around 1% of the population, it’s a very real issue for those that have been diagnosed with it. The lumps that form under the skin can be prone to infection as well as being sore and inflamed, subjecting the patient to a fairly high degree of discomfort. Luckily, there are treatments available to manage the condition and relieve some symptoms, though there’s unfortunately no cure for it yet."
What is Hidradenitis Suppurativa?
Hidradenitis Supparativa (often abbreviated to HS) is a chronic and usually very painful skin condition, characterised by pus-filled lumps under the skin. These lesions are most common in areas where skin rubs together, such as the:
It tends to affect more women than men, and is associated with obesity and smoking, though also has links to conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), Crohn’s Disease, and others. It’s been suggested that HS may be due to a hormonal imbalance, as symptoms in women have a tendency to improve after the menopause, but the actual cause of the condition is as yet unknown.
Is Hidradenitis Suppuratvia hereditary?
In around a third of all cases, HS has been found to run in the family. So whilst it isn’t strictly a hereditary condition, there are certain cases where it might be found in several generations of the same family, causing some researchers to suspect a genetic predisposition.
Is HS contagious?
Despite its appearance, HS isn’t contagious. Despite the cause not being understood and the condition responding well to antibiotic treatment, you aren’t able to transmit HS to another person, and you won’t catch it off someone else, either.
What are the symptoms of HS?
Hidradenitis Suppurativa might mimic other conditions, potentially making it difficult to diagnose it at first, but some of the most common symptoms and signs that you might be suffering with HS include:
- Painful lumps in skin folds that recur in the same place or nearby.
- Tunnels under the skin that connect the lumps together. These may leak pus occasionally.
- Blackheads on the skin once the condition progresses.
- Scarring from previous lumps that may have ruptured or retreated.
Because of its similarity to other conditions, HS is often misdiagnosed or mistaken for other conditions such as acne, but although the treatments are similar, different doses may be needed for each condition, meaning that it’s important to get the right diagnosis from your doctor before starting any medication.
How is HS diagnosed?
Hidradenitis Suppurativa is usually diagnosed by your GP examining the lumps and taking a history of your symptoms. They may even take a swab of the area to send off for testing. If your doctor suspects that your HS could be linked to another condition, you may even be sent for blood tests, although these can’t detect the presence of HS, only an underlying condition which may be causing it.
How is Hidradenitis Suppurativa treated?
Mild cases of the condition might respond well to lifestyle changes. For example, if you’re overweight, losing weight might help to alleviate the symptoms, as well as giving up smoking if this applies to you. Other lifestyle changes you can make to ease the condition include avoiding tight clothing and managing your stress levels.
For women who tend to have lumps under their arms, wearing underwired bras might be painful and put pressure on the affected area. This may cause it to rupture prematurely or get infected. In these cases, it might be a good idea to look for a soft yet supportive bra that won’t poke at the lesions.
In more severe cases, or when HS hasn’t responded to lifestyle changes, medication might be required. Depending on the severity of the condition and your tolerance to some medicines, there are several things you may be able to take to reduce the symptoms and pain. Some of the drugs available for HS include:
- Contraceptive Pill
- Immunosuppressant Medication
Your doctor will discuss with you which treatment is most appropriate for your condition and monitor you to see how the lumps respond to the medication.
Sometimes, medication alone isn’t enough to reduce the symptoms of HS enough for you to live comfortably, and in these cases, surgery may be suggested.
Is HS caused by poor hygiene?
No. Hygiene has no bearing at all on the development of hidradenitis suppurativa. However, if your lumps do rupture, it’s a good idea to keep as clean as possible, maybe even using antiseptic soap to wash with to avoid the area becoming infected.
When does Hidradenitis Suppurativa usually become apparent?
HS normally develops after puberty. In fact, the average age of onset is around 21. However, this doesn’t mean to say that this is the only age it can occur. Generally, HS doesn’t present itself before puberty, so any time after this has happened you may notice symptoms.
Do I need to see my doctor about HS
In a majority of cases, yes, especially if the lumps are causing you pain or discomfort and getting infected. With some skin conditions, you may be able to treat it with over-the-counter medicines, but in the case of HS, it often needs prescription only medication to help relieve symptoms.
Can HS affect my health in other ways?
Yes, especially with severe cases. If the skin is broken, it may be prone to infection, causing a range of issues and more pain where the lumps form. They may even form scar tissue which can in some cases restrict your range of movement and even be quite painful. HS may also cause psychological problems such as low self-esteem and depression, as the appearance of the lesions can cause some people to become down or isolate themselves from social situations.
If a condition starts to affect your life in other ways, you must always visit your GP for advice, as there may be other treatment options that make it easier for you.