My doctor says I have a skin condition called hidradenitis suppurativa. How is that normally treated?

Ask the doctors

Q. I was recently diagnosed with hidradenitis suppurativa. What could have caused this condition, and can it be cured? What are the usual treatments?

A. Hidradenitis suppurativa is an uncommon skin condition that starts out as pimple-like lesions on the skin. If left untreated, it can grow deeper into the tissue and over time can lead to painful fluid-filled lumps or thick scars. The condition is most common on parts of the body where skin presses up against skin, such as the groin, the underarms, the thighs, or the buttocks. Hidradenitis suppurativa most often affects younger people, particularly women, and most often happens after puberty. It’s less common in people over age 55. Other risk factors include smoking and being overweight or obese, and it seems to run in families. Experts aren’t really sure what causes hidradenitis suppurativa, but hormones and the immune system may play a role. Some experts believe that an ordinary blockage in the skin triggers an overzealous immune system reaction, which leads to symptoms. The good news is that you can’t spread the condition to other people, and it is treatable. Catching the problem early can minimize problems. There are numerous treatment options for hidradenitis suppurativa, including antibiotics, hormonal medications and skin treatments, such as acne washes or special bleach baths. In more severe cases, your doctor might also recommend biologic therapy to dampen the immune response or surgery to remove or drain the affected skin. Even after treatment, the condition may require ongoing monitoring to treat or prevent recurrences.

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