8 Facts About Hidradenitis Suppurativa

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Paige Greenfield Fowler on September 14, 2022

Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), also known as acne inversa, is a disease that affects your skin. It causes pimple-like bumps. Left untreated, the bumps can cause major problems. They can rupture, leak, and form thick scars. Learn more about the disease and what you can do to control it.

  • womans-underarm
    HS occurs in places you wouldn’t expect acne.
    Unlike acne that typically occurs on your face, chest or back, hidradenitis suppurativa shows up in unexpected areas. These are often spots where skin touches skin. This includes your underarm, groin, buttocks, upper thighs, and under the breasts. Some people with acne inversa experience breakouts in the same location every time. Others may get breakouts close to where a previous one occurred, but not in the exact spot.
  • doctor-examining-woman-on-table
    HS can cause serious scars.
    As the bumps heal, deep scars may form. These scars can thicken and lead to serious complications. If you develop a scar in your groin, it can affect your ability to walk. Scars that form in your armpit can make it difficult to move your arm. Seeking treatment as soon as you notice symptoms is important because it can prevent acne inversa from worsening and causing long-term complications like scars.
  • woman-with-hand-over-face
    It may affect men and women differently.
    Women are three times more likely to develop HS than men. Women and men may also experience breakouts in different locations of the body. Women are most likely to get them on their genitals and upper thighs. For men, acne inversa may be more common on the genitals and around the anus.
  • hair-follicles
    The cause is not known.
    Although there’s no known cause, there are some theories. HS is most likely to occur after puberty, so hormonal changes may be a factor. Genetics may be another factor; one-third of people with acne inversa have a close relative who has it, too. You may also be at risk if your immune system overreacts when you have a clogged hair follicle. This can lead to flare-ups.
  • dermatologist-examining-patients-skin
    Diagnosing HS can be a simple process.
    Your dermatologist can examine the area where you’re having a breakout and determine whether you have HS. The sooner you contact your dermatologist, the better. Diagnosing and treating acne inversa early can prevent it from getting much worse.
  • medication
    There are many different treatments available.
    HS may be treated with medications, surgical procedures, or a combination of both. Although there isn’t a medication that specifically targets acne inversa, certain medications that treat other conditions can be helpful for treating acne inversa, too. For example, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, an acne treatment, or a diabetes drug. If your condition is more severe, prescribing biologic medication or immunosuppressive agents, performing laser surgery, or surgically cutting out affected areas may help.
  • smoking
    You can take control.
    To take control of HS, quit smoking if you’re a smoker and work to achieve a healthier weight if you’re overweight or obese. Losing just 10% of your body weight can make a difference. While smoking and weight gain don’t cause acne inversa, they can make you more likely to get it if you’re already at risk.
  • Tip #3:  Shave  Gently
    Certain precautions can make a difference.
    When you have HS, making a few daily changes can reduce your flare-ups and make your condition less severe. Try wearing looser-fitting clothing. Tight clothes cause the fabric to rub against your skin, which can cause flare-ups. Don’t shave during breakouts. It can irritate your skin. Avoid overheating and sweating. Talk with your doctor about an antiperspirant that can control sweating without irritating your skin.
8 Facts About Hidradenitis Suppurativa

About The Author

  1. Acne. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne-and-rosacea/acne
  2. Hidradenitis suppurativa. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/painful-skin-joints/hidradenitis-suppurativa
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Last Review Date: 2022 Sep 14
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.