What Is Hidradenitis Suppurativa?


Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), or acne inversa, is a chronic skin condition characterized by painful, boil-like lumps that form in blocked hair follicles under the skin. The lumps may eventually rupture and leak pus and blood. As the ruptures heal, hard, rope-like scars and sinus tracts (channels under the skin) often form, which can restrict movement.

What are the signs and symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa?

The signs and symptoms of HS include the following:

  • Pitted areas of skin with blackheads
  • Painful, red lumps under the skin that form in hair follicles, typically in areas where skin rubs together, such as the armpits, buttocks, thighs, groin, folds of the stomach, under the breasts, etc.
  • Lumps under the skin that may be itchy and filled with foul-smelling pus
  • Leaking, inflamed clusters of sores on the skin that heal slowly and lead to scarring

Hidradenitis suppurativa typically begins with one lump that often recurs in the same location. It may eventually develop in multiple areas of the skin. Symptoms usually begin after puberty.

What causes hidradenitis suppurativa?

The exact cause of HS is not known. Medical professionals think it may be related to hormones, the immune system, or environmental factors. It may also have a genetic component; mutations in the NCSTN, PSEN1, or PSENEN gene have been linked to some cases, but more research still needs to be done. It is not caused by lack of personal care or the use of hygiene products, such as deodorant, and it cannot be spread from one person to another.

What are the risk factors of developing hidradenitis suppurativa?

Factors that increase the risk of developing hidradenitis suppurativa include the following:

  • Female gender
  • Age range from 18 to 29
  • Preexisting acne
  • Excess body weight
  • Habitual smoking
  • Family history of HS
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