This month Ireland became the first country in the world to offer Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) patients a specific wound dressing through the Health Service Executive. This is an important step for patients with this chronic, incurable disease.
Suzanne Moloney, chief executive and founder of HidraMed Solutions, creator of HidraWear, has lived with the condition since she was 13 years old. “Being able to help patients with support from the HSE is a huge step towards greatly improving our quality of life,” she says.
HidraWear’s AX garment and dressings are available to eligible patients who hold a medical card or are part of the drug payment scheme via their GP. HS patients should speak to their doctor to check eligibility for receiving HidraWear through the HSE.
What is HidraWear?
HidraWear is specifically designed to help people living with HS manage their daily wound care.
The armpit is one of the areas most commonly affected by HS and one of the most challenging places to dress and retain a dressing. This is due to a combination of factors: perspiration, moisture, body hair, curves, sensitive skin, movement and friction. As a result, regular dressings leak, fall off, restrict movement and pinch the skin, causing pain and skin damage.
The HidraWear AX garment is designed to solve these issues. It is fully adjustable, has outward-facing seams and soft material. It is extremely breathable and wicks perspiration away from the skin, helping patients feel dry all day.
HidraWear dressings are designed to fold easily with curves of the body and work with the AX garment. They are adhesive-free, meaning no more adhesive rash and sores. HidraWear dressings are very absorbent, pulling moisture away from the skin and locking it inside the dressing. The special backing reduces the risk of leaks.
What is Hidradenitis suppurativa?
HS is a chronic, inflammatory skin disease with no cure. It affects tens of thousands of people in Ireland and millions worldwide. Patients experience recurrent and painful boils, abscesses and lesions, and debilitating pain. HS can compromise patients’ quality of life, preventing them from maintaining relationships, jobs or even completing day to day tasks.
How to recognise symptoms
HS most commonly occurs during puberty or early adulthood, but onset can occur in childhood and later in life. Symptoms depend on what stage the condition is at. Other symptoms include fatigue, pain, reduced mobility and a high temperature.
There are three stages in the Hurley model: mild; moderate; and severe. In the mild stage, symptoms can be hard to distinguish from other skin conditions. Patients might experience blackheads, pea-sized nodules and single abscess or lumps. When HS moves into the moderate stage, healed nodules can recur and new ones will form in other areas. You may develop scarring, which tunnels under the skin. These tunnels are called sinus tracts.
Anyone with the severe stages of HS can experience sinus tracts that connect, and widespread lesions develop and recur. Because lesions are slow to heal (and sometimes don’t), the skin can remain open, form knot-like scars and become infected.
HS can affect any part of the body, but it is primarily found in areas where your skin rubs against itself, such as the underarms, under the breast, groin, ears, back of the neck, inner thighs and buttock. HS boils become inflamed, heal and return.
What to do if you think you have HS
Make an appointment with your GP, who will examine you and decide whether you fit the criteria for HS. Treatment based on your stage will be determined. The GP may determine that a specialist is better placed to treat you and refer you. To rule out other conditions, your doctor may also take a sample of pus for testing.
Challenging wound care
One of the challenges for people with HS is daily wound care. The lesions and wounds are painful and prone to a high volume of exudate. Traditional dressings leak, fall off or cause skin damage, causing the patient pain, distress, embarrassment and anxiety.
There is a belief that this is a rare disease. Whereas the truth is that people are suffering silently and with little support
HidraWear’s HS specific design assures secure dressing retention in the difficult to dress areas, such as the armpits. The soft, highly absorbent dressing can retain large amounts of wound exudate. HidraWear’s fluid-repellent backing prevents external contamination of the wound and provides comfort and security to patients, enabling them to self-manage their wound care effectively.
Commonly misdiagnosed and misunderstood
Misdiagnosis is common in HS, with recent studies showing that, on average, it takes more than seven years for a HS patient to receive a proper diagnosis. There is no blood test for HS; diagnosis relies on examination of the affected areas.
Dr Barry McGrath, PhD, from Limerick, manages Hidradenitis Suppurativa Ireland, an online community of HS patients. He was misdiagnosed until his 30s, having started showing symptoms in his teens. “There is a belief that this is a rare disease,” he says. “Whereas the truth is that people are suffering silently and with little support because of a lack of HS understanding among health professionals.”
The cause of HS is highly misunderstood as well. Patients presenting with symptoms are often told that HS is caused by bad hygiene, weight, STD or even their diet. In fact, there is no known cause.
Anyone who suspects that they could have HS is encouraged to speak to their GP as soon as possible. For more information about HS and HidraWear, see www.hidrawear.com.