April noticed boils near her genital region and under her arms when she was 15. She was told she had folliculitis until 2005, when she was diagnosed with hidradentitis suppurativa. But doctors told her there wasn’t a cure.
Now, she says, the boils seem to be getting worse.
“I’m really afraid that it’s going to spread to different parts of my body, and I just don’t want it to disfigure me," April says. "I’m just tired of being in pain.”
Dermatologist Dr. Glynis Ablon treats April with a laser to destroy hair follicles that are getting plugged and help reduce the formation of cysts.
What is hidradenitis suppurativa?
Hidradenitis suppurativa, also called acne inversa, is a chronic skin condition where painful, pea-to-marble-sized bumps form under the skin. Hidradenitis suppurativa often develops at the time of puberty with a single bump that can persist for weeks or months. The bumps develop when hair follicles become blocked and inflamed. They usually occur where oil and sweat glands are found and in places where the skin rubs together, such as the armpits, groin, between buttocks and under breasts. The bumps can break open and drain foul-smelling pus. The condition progressively worsens and affects multiple part of the body. In some cases, tunnels connecting the bumps form under the skin.
Because hidradenitis suppurativa often starts at puberty, researchers believe that hormones play a role. The condition also can be triggered by excess weight, stress, sweat and smoking. It can be genetic and is more common in women. It is not contagious, and it is not caused by poor hygiene.
- Red tender bumps or lesions that break open and drain pus
- Painful, pea-sized lumps that develop under the skin and become inflamed
- Leaking sores that heal slowly, often leading to scarring and the development of tunnels under the skin
- Incision and drainage
- Laser hair removal
Getting an early diagnosis and treatment for hidradenitis suppurativa is important to prevent the condition from progressing and scars from forming.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, National Institutes of Health, American Academy of Dermatology, John Hopkins Medicine