5 Things You Need to Know About Hidradenitis Suppurativa
1. Hidradenitis Suppurativa Is a Severe Type of Acne
Acne occurs when hair follicles become clogged and lead to build-up of sebum and bacteria of sebaceous glands. Hidradenitis suppurativa is a chronic inflammatory skin condition similar to acne that occurs when hair follicles are clogged. Unlike acne, it is the apocrine glands rather than the sebaceous glands that become clogged.
Sebaceous glands are the oil glands that are found mostly on the face and scalp. Apocrine glands, on the other hand, are a type of sweat gland. They are are located mostly in the underarms and groin. Apocrine glands develop only after puberty and produce a milky substance, which along with normal skin bacteria, create body odor. They are important in cooling the body and perhaps in mating (the odor is a signal for mating mammals).
Hidradenitis suppurativa develops when these apocrine glands are blocked, leading to painful, red, draining nodules under the arms and in the groin.
2. How Do You Know if You Have Hidradentitis Suppurativa?
Hidradenititis suppurativa is a chronic skin condition. It is characterized by painful, inflamed nodules under the arms and in the groin. These nodules often break open and drain clear or milky fluid that might have an unpleasant odor. Often dilated pores like blackheads appear in the affected areas. The painful bumps can develop anywhere you have apocrine glands, which includes the arm pits, groin, anus area and even between or under the breasts in women.
The inflamed bumps can persist for years, often improving spontaneously only to worsen again later. Hormones play a role, and women with the disease often report that it gets worse around the time of their period. The pain and constant leaking of fluid makes the disease quite frustrating.
Over years scars can develop and tracks or tunnels under the skin can form where the fluid leaks out.
3. What Are Risk Factors for Getting Hidradenitis Suppurativa?
Because of the connection to hormones, hidradenitis suppurative affects women much more often than men. Genetics also plays a role; if someone in your family has it, then your risk of developing it increases. Being obese increases the risk of developing hidradentitis suppurativa, as chronic irritation occurs when skin rubs together (in skin folds or thighs). Smoking is another risk factor.
4. Medical Treatments
Simple home remedies, such as applying warm compresses to tender bumps, can improve symptoms. Over-the-counter antibiotics such as benzoyl peroxide can be used to reduce bacteria and inflammation, which can control the disease in some people.
More severe disease requires prescription medications. Topical antibiotics such as clindamycin are often used, as are oral antibiotics such as tetracycline and trimethoprim sulfamethaxazole. Because there is no cure for hidradentitis suppurativa, antibiotics often must be used for years to keep the condition under control.
Oral retinoinds such as isotretinoin help some patients. This drug helps prevent the hair follicles from becoming blocked in the first place and can prevent bumps from forming.
Last steroids can be injected into red, painful bumps to calm the inflammation and shrink the lesions.
5. Surgical Treatments
Some chronic, draining nodules do not improve with medical treatments. The painful bumps can be incised to allow the fluid to drain more easily. Sometimes surgery can be done to cut the lesions out completely. These surgical treatments can significantly relieve pain and drainage from active lesions but unfortunately will not prevent new bumps from forming. Destructive lasers can also be used to destroy the hair follicles in the problem areas, but this can lead to scarring.
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