Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) is a severe chronic condition of the skin and an inflammation of sweat glands. This is characterized by formation of acne due to the blockage of pores and sweat glands. This blockage will eventually develop blackheads and pus inside. It occurs in the oil glands and hair follicles found underneath the skin.
The common body parts affected are those locations where the skin rubs against each other frequently. These parts include the groin, armpits, anus, buttocks, breasts and perineum.
It is more common amongst women and those of black race.
What Causes HS?
The causative/aggravating factors of Hidradenitis Suppurativa are many, and include the following:
- Genetics – our parents’ genes contribute hugely to our make-up. We can inherit large pores, oily skin, hair follicle defect, sweat glands and hormonal disorders. ALl of these factors then can contribute to developing HS.
- Hormones – There is also a marked surge in sex hormones during certain ages such as puberty. Such hormonal changes can affect HS.
- Diet – a diet high in fat and salt are one of the main aggravators of Hidradenitis Suppurativa. Deep fried foods are one of them, sweets (chocolates, soda) and chips. Obesity and lack of exercise are also some of the factors that exacerbate the problem.
- Weak immune system – may be due to a disease (Diabetes, Tuberculosis and Cancer) or may be a side effect of medications and treatments (such as radiation treatment and chemotherapy).
- Lifestyle – plays a large role in our health. Use of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes will provide toxins in the body, making the body exert extra effort to eliminate them. And due to high levels of toxins in the blood, there will be a time that these toxins will accumulate and block the pores and sweat glands leading to a bad looking skin.
More on the problem in this video:
Signs and Symptoms of HS:
Here is a list of the signs and symptoms of Hidradenitis Suppurativa:
- Presence of lumps – due to infection, the skin cells react to it and result to swelling. Fever may also be present.
- Reddish-yellowish in color – due to infection, there is a noticeable redness on the site and it can be yellowish in color in the center due to the accumulation of pus under the skin. The pus is made up of dead skin cells, dead tissues, bacteria, and blood. Pus can rupture and ooze out.
- Pain – Hidradenitis Suppurativa is very painful that it can interfere with our activities of daily living. Fatigue, anxiety, increased stress levels and restlessness may be observed after a few days due to constant pain.
- Presence of other skin conditions/acne– oily skin, pimples, blackheads and other skin problems (such as fungal infections) may occur.
In every disease, there are complications that may go along with it. In Hidradenitis Suppurativa, these may include the following:
- Localized infection (an infection that is in a small area) can spread to surrounding tissues and nearby organs. This can also create a systemic body infection (an infection that spread all throughout the body). In addition, severe infection that spreads in a certain body part rapidly (such as in the case of Cellulitis) may occur as a complication of Hidradenitis suppurativa.
- Formation of scars and skin discoloration – deep marks and dark spots may be left in the skin due to the damaged skin cells from Hidradenitis suppurativa.
Diagnosis of the Condition
To diagnose Hidradenitis Suppurativa, diagnostic tests must be performed such as:
- CBC (Complete Blood Count) – to assess for the overall health of the blood, and to determine the levels of WBC (white blood cells). An elevation above normal range of WBC indicates infection.
- Blood Culture – to identify the micro-organisms causing Hidradenitis Suppurativa. This will aid in determining what kind of antibiotic to use to specifically target this bacteria.
- Culture of the pus / discharge – to determine its make-up, and what kind of micro-organisms caused it.
Home Care for Hidradenitis Suppurativa
The exact advice depends on your circumstances and what is causing/aggravating your condition. But advice may include some of the following:
- Healthy diet and weight loss – cut down on the salt, fat and sugar by basing your meals with the “Food Pyramid”. Losing weight will reduce the surface area of skin-folds.
- Exercise – promotes good blood circulation and increases body strength and metabolism. Exercise burns fat and helps one reach the ideal healthy weight.
- Warm compress – soothes, reduces pain, swelling and promotes good blood circulation in the area.
- Good hygienic practices – bathing daily (to stop possible secondary infection). Hair might be trimmed, shaved or waxed to prevent ingrown hair. Comfortable clothing and avoidance of hot clothes like spandex is recommended. Cotton underwear is preferred to let the skin breathe.
- Lifestyle modification – stop smoking, using drugs and abusing alcohol.
The above home remedies are tips are helpful and important. But medical intervention needs to be sought:
Hidradenitis Suppurativa Treatment
The pharmacological and surgical treatment options for HS include:
- Antibiotics – prescribed to stop the growth and multiplication of microorganisms.
- Pain killers and antipyretics – antipyretics are medicines for fever and usually, they reduce pain levels also.
- Vitamin A as a supplement.
- Local steroid injections.
- Mild soap – hypo-allergenic soaps are prescribed for relief of this skin condition.
- Scar treatment – may be laser scar removal, or creams and lotions.
- Needle aspiration – a sterile needle is inserted in the area to drain out the pus by means of aspiration.
- Incision and drainage – this is done in the operating room under local anesthesia (a numbing medicine is injected). An incision is made to remove the capsule containing pus. The surrounding tissues and skin will be removed to allow new cells to heal and make new, healthy skin cells.
Unfortunately, nearly a quarter of patients have stated that nothing helps relieve their symptoms.
Hidradenitis Suppurativa Sympomatic Relief
- Maintain ideal body weight – to determine BMI (Body Mass Index is the indicator if you are normal, underweight or overweight). You may access BMI computation on the internet or with the aid of your nutritionist or health care provider.
- Clothing – tight clothes (such as corset) and warm clothes (leather, fur, and spandex) are hot for the skin, and will not let the skin breathe. Choose light clothing such as cotton clothes and underwear.
- Practice good hygiene – bathe daily and regularly change clothes. Remove make-up before going to bed and avoid use of greasy body products. Helps reduce risks of secondary infection.
- Diet – avoid fatty foods and eat nutritious foods based on the food pyramid.
If you need more help and support, this site may help.