You might not have heard of it, but this painful skin condition is actually pretty common and women are even more at risk than men.
Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a painful skin disease characterized by sore, sometimes smelly, golf ball-sized boils in your armpits or groin.
Although you may not have heard of it, the disease is actually quite common: it affects between one and four people out of 100. According to doctor Iltefat Hamzavi, a senior staff physician at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, it is common, yet rarely diagnosed.
Dr. Hamzavi tells Women's Health Magazine that HS is a chronic (and relapsing) disease of the hair follicle. Boils emerge under the armpits, groin, buttocks, around breasts or inner thighs.
What is it?
Because they look like bacterial infections or sexually transmitted diseases, sometimes the boils associated with HS are diagnosed as something else.
However, Andrew Alexis M.D., explains that HS is not a sexually transmitted disease and it's also not a result of a bacterial infection.
It is non-contagious and characterized by swollen, painful bumps that usually drain pus.
"The far-reaching physical and emotional impacts of HS often result in depression, creating another facet of difficulty in daily life,” says Hamzavi."
Doctors explain that the disease is unpredictable, yet can be triggered by stressful events, sickness, poor diet and even your menstrual cycle.
What can be done?
Although there are no cures, Dr. Alexis says there are some effective treatments for the condition that include: antibiotics, retinoids, steroid injections and surgery.
One way to reduce flare-ups is to maintain a healthy weight and quit smoking. Dr. Hamzavi explains that the disease is most common in people with a higher BMI and among smokers.
Clean the affected areas daily with an antibacterial soap and don't allow that skin to become to wet or too dry. You can manage this by wearing loose, breathable clothing.