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Causes and Risk Factors

Scientists don't know exactly what causes hidradenitis suppurativa or HS, but problems with the structure of the hair follicle are thought to play a role.1,4

It is also thought that the inflamed spots and pustules tend to develop when there is a blockage of hair follicles and inflammation of certain sweat glands found in areas like the armpits and groin.3,4 Blockage of the hair follicle can cause the area to swell up and burst, or may form abscesses and become severely infected.5,6

It's important to understand that HS is not infectious, so you can't 'pass it on' to other people, nor is it caused by an infection or connected to poor hygiene.5

The following factors may be associated with HS:2-5



  • HS commonly occurs in young adults in their early 20s, but can occur at any age.
  • The proportion of people that get HS usually reduces after the age of 50 to 55.


  • Women are more likely to develop HS than men.


  • Research shows HS may run in families
  • About 1 in 3 people diagnosed with HS have a family member also living with the condition.


  • As the condition is seen to get worse during the reproductive years, it is thought that sex hormones may play a role. As yet, there no direct evidence of such a link.


Doctors may have found a link between HS and both smoking and obesity.2,3
But, many scientists are still unsure if obesity can lead to HS, or if it is HS that can lead to obesity.

Some of these risk factors, such as smoking, obesity, hormonal changes, and excessive sweating may actually worsen symptoms.2,3,4,6

Talking to Your GP


If you think you may have hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), seeing your family doctor for an accurate diagnosis and useful information is an important first step in managing your condition.



  1. Danby FW, et al. Preliminary findings suggest hidradenitis suppurativa may be due to defective follicular support. BJD. 2013; 168; 1034–1039.
  2. Zouboulis CC, Tsatsou F (2012) Disorders of the apocrine sweat glands. In: Goldsmith LA, Katz SI, Gilchrest BA, Paller AS, Leffell DJ, Wolff K (eds) Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed, McGraw Hill, New York Chicago, pp 947-959.
  3. Jemec G. Hidradenitis Suppurativa. N Engl J Med. 2012; 366:158-64.
  4. Collier F., Smith R., Morton C. Diagnosis and Management of Hidradenitis Suppurativa. BMJ. 2013; 346:f2121.
  5. The British Association of Dermatologists. Hidradenitis Suppurativa. Available at: Updated June 2013. Accessed October 2nd, 2014.
  6. Mayo Health Clinic. Hidradenitis Suppurativa. Available at: Published April 9, 2013. Accessed October 2nd, 2014.


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AXHUD141459a Date of Preparation Nov 2014

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