Irish woman opens up about the chronic skin condition that took over her life

An Irish woman has opened up the skin condition that left her ashamed of her body when she was teenager.

It took years for Suzanne Moloney to get over her embarrassment around her skin, but now she publicly speaks about her condition and owns her own company that creates awareness for the disease.

Suzanne has a skin condition called Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) which is a chronic disease that affects one in 100 people.

It causes painful lesions to form on the skin, which look like abscesses or boils. They’re mainly located in the armpits, thighs, groin and buttocks. They can rupture, leak, and form tunnels under the skin and they are difficult to heal.

“I would have been 13 when I found lumps around my bikini line and my armpit, they weren’t really bad, they would have been stage one. I was too embarrassed to show my mam or to go to the doctor,” Suzanne told RSVP Live.

“I was kind of awkward, so I just kind of ignored them, I bought creams down in the shops or the chemist and try and get essential oils to try and manage it by myself which is really the norm with most patients.” she said.

“It shouldn’t be embarrassing, it’s just another disease that people get, it’s not an STD or it’s not because you’ve poor hygiene.”

She believes that a lot of people blame themselves for getting it which delays seeking treatment and getting a diagnosis.

“It just got too bad for me to manage and I was afraid because one of the lesions became so swollen and was really sore and kept draining.”

She eventually went to a doctor.

“My GP at the time didn’t know what HS was, so she gave me antibiotics for a skin infection. She didn’t know the signs because it’s not really a mainstream disease so I went undiagnosed for another five or six years, I was 22 when I actually got diagnosed.”

“I like to think now that I’ve overcome a lot of it, as a teenager life probably wasn’t great, I would’ve been shy with boys and things like that, I was really self conscious about my appearance, I was probably a late bloomer in the boyfriend scene.”

She explained that the lesions are, “really painful, swollen and incurable.” The lumps form underneath the skin and don’t heal like a normal wound.

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Skin problems and answers

She told RSVP that it’s better to be diagnosed early as there’s different stages of the disease: “If it’s caught at an earlier stage, it can be managed a lot easier with medication but once you pass into your stage two or three it becomes irreversible and it causes irreversible skin damage, the only way you’ll get rid of it then is to have surgery.”

Suzanne had a lot of other health problems related to the medication which she had to take for her skin condition. She was on long-term antibiotics which caused a lot of digestive problems and stomach problems.

Speaking about different treatments she tried, she said: “You’re so desperate that you will try anything because you just want a bit of relief.”

“I’ve accepted it now, it’s apart of my life. I’m a lot more kind to myself these days when I just would’ve beaten myself up about it. I try to care for myself. I try to eat healthy, get a bit of exercise and live a healthy lifestyle.”

She stated that she raises awareness for HS to help others: “If we can raise enough awareness HS could be diagnosed at an earlier stage and prevent other patients having to go through surgeries and intense treatment, it’s my goal to help other patients.”

She owns a company now called HidraMed Solutions, she developed it for dressing people with HS, “it’s a difficult thing to manage the wound care when you have leaky armpits for example and you don’t want to be leaking onto your clothes, it’s embarrassing. I got really fed up with the situation and invented a dressing that works specifically for HS.”

“It’s nice to be in a position to be able to do that and I’m not a lone wolf anymore. There’s a lot of patients online, we’re all kind of communicating with each other and taking part in different awareness campaigns.”

You can check out Suzanne’s Twitter page here and you can also look at the HidraMed Solutions Facebook page here. There is also an Irish support group available online.

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