What is Hidradenitis suppurativa?

shutterstock_148330382A patient came into the clinic today and said she had a couple lumps in her left armpit (axilla) that have been very painful and draining some clear liquid.  She told me that she had one before in her right arm pit and she had it treated by taking antibiotics and a doctor also performed an incision and drainage.

Hidrandenitis suppurativa (HS) is a condition in which there is red, swollen painful bumps in places where the skin rubs together.  The nodules can make it difficult to move because they are so painful.  They can also smell foul and drain pus or blood.  These bumps may go away on their own, but often stay for weeks to months and often come back.

Causes:  This is not caused by being unclean – it’s not an infectious disease. Often the area may become irritated by shaving in that area or a certain deodorant or antiperspirant.   You cannot spread this to anyone else as it’s not contagious.  It is generally a genetic condition that is more common in first-degree relatives that have the condition.

The bumps or nodules are usually located in the:

1)   Armpits (axilla)

2)   In the groin

3)   Under the breasts (in women)

4)   On the inner thighs

5)   Buttocks

6)   Around or near the anus

Often the skin hardens and scars around the painful nodules and some can form tunnels under the skin.

Treatment:  Possible treatment options include:

1)   Antibiotic liquids or gels that you put on the affected areas – these actually work to reduce inflammation rather than treat infection

2)   Antibiotic pills – to reduce inflammation

3)   Injections of steroid medications into the areas to bring down the inflammation

4)   Some women take hormone treatments to improve their condition

5)   Surgery

Things you can do to reduce your symptoms:

1)   If you are overweight, lose weight because this condition is more common or severe in people who are overweight

2)   Try to avoid activities that cause your skin to rub against itself

3)   Do not wear tight-fitting clothes

4)   For people with recurrent infections, the use of an antibiotic lotion such as clindamycin 1% applied to the area twice a day can help prevent recurrence.

5)   Show and wash the tender areas everyday gently.  Do not scrub with a washcloth, brush or loofah

6)   Avoid smoking

7)   Use antiperspirants rather than deodorants

8)   Avoid exposure to hot, humid environments as much as possible

This document is for informational purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual patient.  If you have questions please contact your medical provider.


I hope that you have found this information useful.  Wishing you the best of health,

Scott Rennie, DO

Blog: https://doctorrennie.wordpress.com


8 thoughts on “What is Hidradenitis suppurativa?

  1. ginny

    Hi, I am a HS sufferer, going on 7 years now. Are you aware of any doctor here in the Honolulu area that specializes in this disease? I have tried so many different options.for.treatment during the past 4 years with no result. I am considering surgery now, but with most doctors I’ve seen not knowing much about the disease, I am desperately trying to find someone who is very knowledgeable and experienced in treating HS. Thanks for any info you can provide.

  2. Otilia

    Thank you Doctor Rennie for sharing this useful information on hidradenitis, we could use more people from the medical profession sharing information from their practice about this condition. So often is is misdiagnosed and patients lose precious time in finding the proper treatment for managing it.

  3. Asya

    thanks its a useful information, but hence i want to shave n i know the cause is the friction when i shave so wot am i supposed to do o how am i suppose to shave with out using sharp object or anything which might cause friction, please do help with extra information
    thank for your time

    1. Dr. Scott Rennie

      It might be a good idea to stop shaving for awhile and allow things to heal. You might also try using a different kind of shaver or non-razor solution.

      All the best!

    1. Dr. Scott Rennie

      Hi Jeanette,

      Not sure who to recommend in Staten Island as I live in Hawaii however I think most primary care providers could help with this condition.

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