Health and Fitness

7 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Hidradenitis Suppurativa


After her diagnosis, Kristen received a pamphlet from her doctor’s office explaining how to manage hidradenitis suppurativa at every stage, which she says was invaluable. “That was probably the most helpful thing I’d ever seen in the years I’d researched what I could possibly have,” Kristin says. Knowing that she had stage two helped Kristin better understand her physician assistant’s recommendations. 

3. How is hidradenitis suppurativa treated?

Your doctor may recommend a combination of prescription medications (such as topical antibiotics and steroid injections), changes to your skin-care regimen (like using an antiseptic wash when showering such as chlorhexidine 4% or benzoyl peroxide), and potentially surgery to remove the bumps, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Kristin was relieved to learn she didn’t need more surgery. After some trial and error, she found a winning combination that helps reduce her hidradenitis suppurativa flare-ups: She washes her thighs with antibacterial soap and wears underwear that extends to the middle of her thighs, reducing friction and sweating, both of which can worsen flares. “Between the shorts and the soap, I have been in control of my condition ever since,” she says. “If I go one day and I wear regular underwear, sweat a lot, or have a lot of friction, it’s game over.”

It’s important to remember that you’re dealing with a complex condition, so it may take some time to find a treatment plan that works for you. Ask your doctor how long you should try a particular treatment before concluding it isn’t working and moving on to something else.

4. Does laser hair removal make sense for me?

Teresa K., 32, who was diagnosed with hidradenitis suppurativa in 2017, says laser hair removal has brought her great relief. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), having less hair on areas with H.S. can reduce the number of lumps you have. Generally, laser hair removal is more effective for mild cases and can require at least three laser treatments, given once every four to six weeks. It’s also worth noting that people with dark skin have a greater risk of hyperpigmentation from certain types of lasers. The procedure also can be less effective for people with light hair, according to the Mayo Clinic.

5. Can hidradenitis suppurativa affect my mental health?

Dealing with chronic pain and recurring lesions can definitely take a toll on your mental health. Indeed, people with hidradenitis are more likely to experience depression and generalized anxiety, according to a 2021 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology4.

“If you are struggling to cope with H.S., let your doctor know,” Kelsey Flood, MD, a clinical instructor in dermatology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, tells SELF. “We want to help take care of you as a whole person, not just your skin.” Your dermatologist can refer you to a therapist who is experienced working with people who have chronic conditions, or they can refer you to a psychiatrist if you are interested in pursuing medications such as antidepressants.

6. What are some misconceptions about hidradenitis suppurativa?

Because H.S. looks similar to an infection, people sometimes think it’s contagious or the result of poor hygiene. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. “Hidradenitis suppurativa is an inflammatory medical condition—it is not an infection,” Dr. Mayo says. It occurs when hair follicles become blocked, and experts aren’t sure why this happens in the first place. It could be related to genetics, hormones, excess weight, or smoking cigarettes, according to the Mayo Clinic. The bottom line? H.S. is not contagious so you don’t need to worry about giving it to a friend, family member, or partner.

7. How can I connect with others who have hidradenitis suppurativa?

Getting diagnosed with H.S. can feel isolating, but remember: You’re not alone. Dr. Flood recommends checking out the HS Foundation to find a support group and an HS patient card, which explains what the condition is to those who are unfamiliar with it (For example, it can be useful if you need medical care while traveling.) Dr. Flood also recommends Hope for HS, a nonprofit advocacy group, to anyone looking for support.

Sources:

  1. BMJ, Hidradenitis Suppurativa: A Common and Burdensome, Yet Under-Recognised, Inflammatory Skin Disease
  2. Dermatology, Delayed Diagnosis of Hidradenitis Suppurativa and Its Effect on Patients and Healthcare System
  3. StatPearls, Hidradenitis Suppurativa
  4. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Comorbidity Screening in Hidradenitis Suppurativa

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