Hidradenitis suppurativa is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that progressively forms uncomfortable, fluid-filled lumps beneath your skin. The condition can appear anywhere on the body but usually affects areas of skin that touch together or rub against each other. Common places where lumps may develop include the armpits, breast folds, inner thighs, groin, and anywhere between the buttocks or around the anus. Patients diagnosed with hidradenitis suppurativa often have many questions about the condition—its prevalence, risk factors, and progression.

Question #1: How Common Is Hidradenitis Suppurativa?

Growing awareness and diagnosis rates suggest that hidradenitis suppurativa affects more people than once thought. Nevertheless, the condition often goes undiagnosed, so data about its prevalence is scarce. Researchers estimate that the skin condition affects one to four percent of people globally.

Question #2: What Makes Hidradenitis Suppurativa More Likely to Happen?

Anyone can experience mild to severe hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms. However, research shows that genetic and environmental factors have a role. Higher risk groups include:

● Women – Incidence among women is more than twice that of men.
● Young adults – Most patients start experiencing symptoms between ages 18 and 29.
● Ethnicity – Research shows that the incidence is 2.5 times higher among African Americans than in other ethnic groups.
● Smokers – Although the exact relationship is unknown, 70 to 90 percent of patients with hidradenitis suppurativa smoke.
● People with greater skin friction – Although obesity does not cause the skin condition, obese patients often have more skin folds and friction where lumps can develop.
● Family members – Up to 40 percent of patients who develop hidradenitis suppurativa report a family history of the condition.

Question #3: What Is the Progression of Untreated Hidradenitis Suppurativa?

Although scientists are unsure of the cause of hidradenitis suppurativa, they have learned that it begins in clogged hair follicles. The progression is uncomfortable, embarrassing, and emotionally and physically debilitating if left untreated.

How the condition progresses:

● Skin discomfort begins – Before you see a lump in your skin, the area where it will develop may burn, itch, or sweat.
● Skin lumps form – You may notice what may look like a deep, tender boil, acne cyst, or pimple in your armpit, inner thigh, groin area, or buttocks.
● Lumps grow and merge – As the lumps grow and join, they become fluid-filled abscesses and are more uncomfortable.
● Abscesses burst – Foul-smelling blood and pus ooze out of the abscess, wetting or staining your clothes and causing embarrassment.
● Black bumps form – In advanced stages, black spots that look like blackheads often appear in pairs.
● Abscesses heal slowly and recur – Repeat healing and reopening causes sinus tracts (tunnels) to form beneath your skin. Permanent scars can develop, and some people have continuous wounds on their skin.

In rare instances, researchers have linked some advanced, long-term hidradenitis suppurativa cases to an increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma, one of the three most common types of skin cancer.

Request a Consultation with a Caring Surgeon

If you suspect you have hidradenitis suppurativa, the surgeons at SuperGroup can help. Our doctors regularly treat patients and develop a treatment plan to help them manage their condition and get symptom relief. Request a consultation to discuss your concerns and experience our doctors’ compassionate, comprehensive care.