Hidradenitis suppurativa, also known as HS, is a chronic recurrent skin condition characterized by inflamed areas typically located around the armpits and groin. These inflamed areas often include painful skin lesions, nodules and boils, and usually occur where certain sweat glands (known as apocrine sweat glands) are located, as well as under the breasts, on the buttocks and in the inner thighs, where skin rubs together. Hidradenitis suppurativa is not an infectious or contagious skin disease. 1,2,3,4,5,6
Sometimes referred to as “acne inversa” by dermatologists, hidradenitis suppurativa can take on a variety of forms, which can be different from person to person. Mild cases of HS can consist of small bumps on skin, blackheads or a few skin cysts, while patients with more severe forms can have multiple recurrent abscesses which sometimes release fluid, resulting in an unpleasant odor.1,2 Skin lesions caused by HS can be very uncomfortable and painful, often interfering with the quality of life of those living with the skin condition.2,6
Though it affects the skin, HS is an inflammatory skin disorder, which means the condition is brought on by irregularities in the body’s own immune system. HS can occur at any age, but the condition most commonly develops in adults in their early 20s, with declining rates after the age of 50 to 55.2,4,6
Global prevalence of hidradenitis suppurativa of about 1% has been reported in the general population.7 However, because the skin condition is often misdiagnosed and many people living with HS don’t always feel comfortable talking about their symptoms or seeking a dermatologist for help, the number of people who are actually diagnosed with HS is far less than this estimate.2,6
While not all cases of hidradenitis suppurativa are progressive (meaning that the skin condition can increase in severity over time), some cases of HS can continue to reappear and grow more severe if not properly managed. As a result, diagnosing and properly managing HS as early as possible is important.3,6 The first step for HS patients is to speak to a dermatologist to help ensure an accurate diagnosis.