Hidradenitis suppurativa is a serious skin disease that can resemble other conditions, like acne or boils. Here are three things you need to know about hidradenitis suppurativa.
What are the signs of hidradenitis suppurativa?
At first, hidradenitis suppurativa causes bumps on the skin that look similar to pimples, but the bumps appear in places where pimples aren't common, like the underarms. The bumps can also occur in the groin area.
If the disease worsens, the bumps can become deep and start to look like cysts or boils. Your bumps will be painful, and worse, they can pop and release pus that's stained with blood. Once the bumps heal, you'll be left with thick scars. Over time, you may develop so much scar tissue that it's hard for you to move your arms or legs normally.
What causes this disease?
The exact cause of hidradenitis suppurativa still isn't known. Some researchers think that it may occur when the apocrine sweat glands get clogged and produce pus, while others think that it occurs when the follicles become clogged. The primary events that trigger either situation aren't known, but factors like genetics, immune system disorders, hormones and environmental irritants may play a secondary role in the disease's development. Not knowing the cause of your disease can be frustrating, but since research is ongoing, a cause may be identified in the future.
Can hidradenitis suppurativa be treated?
There's no cure for this disease, but your doctor can offer many treatments to help keep your symptoms under control. Retinoids—which are used to treat acne—can be used either topically or orally. If that doesn't work, your doctor can inject corticosteroids directly into your bumps to reduce inflammation and shrink them. Hormonal therapy can also be used to keep the disease under control, though it's not safe for use in all patients.
If medications aren't enough to manage your symptoms, you may require surgery. Many surgical procedures can be used. For short-term relief, your doctor can drain the pus from your bumps. The bumps can also be fully surgically excised; if the bumps are large, you'll need skin grafts afterwards to repair the surgical sites. Your doctor will let you know which surgical procedures are available to you based on the severity of your disease.
If you have painful pimples in strange locations, you may have hidradenitis suppurativa and should see your primary care doctor right away. Contact a medical clinic for more information.