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Hidradenitis suppurativa, also known as acne inversa, is an inflammatory disease that causes bumps to appear on the skin. While these bumps may resemble pimples or boils, they typically appear in places where acne does not, such as the underarms and groin.
Many people have HS for life. When the condition is diagnosed early, a board-certified dermatologist can recommend effective treatment options to help control the symptoms and prevent the condition from getting worse.
If you have HS, you will notice bumps on your body in areas where skin touches skin. This condition is most common in the underarms and groin. It also may appear on and under the breasts, on the buttocks, and around the anus.
HS bumps may look like pimples, deep acne-like cysts or blackheads, folliculitis (swollen pimples with a hair in the center), or boils. If they break open or rupture, the bumps can leak a blood-stained, foul-smelling pus.
As HS gets worse, the bumps can grow larger and become painful, hot and tender. As the bumps heal, they can
cause deep scars that look like tunnels under the skin. These scars can thicken over time and may be painful. Because of the scarring and pain associated with HS, patients may experience a limited range of motion in areas where the bumps appear.
Although HS can affect people of any age, it is most common in individuals between the ages of 15 and 30. Women, people who are overweight or obese, and smokers have a higher risk of developing HS than the general population. Your risk also increases if you have a blood relative with HS.
HS forms when hair follicles and certain sweat glands become clogged with dead skin cells and other substances. While researchers have not determined the exact cause of HS, scientists believe that it may develop when the immune system overreacts to these clogged hair follicles. Dermatologists do know that HS is not contagious and that it is not caused by poor hygiene.
While HS can look like acne, boils and other skin diseases, the trained eye of a board-certified dermatologist can distinguish among these conditions. To diagnose HS, the dermatologist will look at your skin and ask specific questions. If your HS sores are leaking fluid, the doctor may swab some of this fluid to see if there is an infection.
There are a variety of treatments for HS. No one treatment works for everyone, and you may need to try multiple treatments to find one that works for you. A board-certified dermatologist can discuss your treatment options with you.
HS can grow deep into the skin and the underlying tissue. When this happens, oral and topical medicines alone may not work. A board-certified dermatologist may recommend one of the following procedures, which he or she can safely perform in the office. Serious cases may require a surgical procedure at a hospital.
Dermatologists recommend the following tips for easing the symptoms of HS:
A board-certified dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of skin, hair and nail conditions. To learn more about HS or to find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org/HS or call toll-free (888) 462-DERM (3376).
All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology.
Copyright © by the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Academy of Dermatology Association.
Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides
American Academy of Dermatology
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AAD Public Information Center: 888.462.DERM (3376) AAD Member Resource Center: 866.503.SKIN (7546) Outside the United States: 847.240.1280
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