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 An introduction to HS

Hidradenitis suppurativa, also known as HS, is a long-term or chronic skin condition that can be distinguished by painful, inflamed areas typically located around the armpits, groin and in between the buttocks. The inflamed pustules, nodules and spots usually occur where certain sweat glands (known as apocrine glands) are located, as well as under the breasts and on the inner thighs, where skin may rub together.1-5

Causes of HS

The exact cause of HS is unknown. The condition involves the plugging or blocking of hair follicles where apocrine sweat glands are present.1,2,5


HS is sometimes known as 'acne inversa' and can occur in a variety of forms, which can vary from person to person. Mild cases of HS can consist of small bumps, blackheads or a few cysts. People with more severe forms can suffer from multiple interconnected sinus tracts (small holes or tunnels in the skin) and abscesses which can release fluid (pus) that may have an unpleasant smell.1,2 Lesions caused by HS can be very uncomfortable and painful, often interfering with the quality of life of those living with the condition.2,5

Though it affects the skin, HS is an inflammatory disorder, which means the condition is associated with certain faults in the immune system. However, the exact cause of HS is unknown. HS can occur at any age, but the condition most commonly develops in adults in their early 20s, declining after the age of 50-552-5


Studies have reported a global prevalence of 1% in the general population.6 However, as it is easy to misdiagnose and because people living with HS often feel too embarrassed to talk about their symptoms or to seek medical help from their GP, the number of people who are actually diagnosed with HS is far less than this estimate2,3,5,6

While not all cases of HS get worse over time, some cases of HS can continue to reappear and become more severe if not properly managed. As a result, diagnosing and properly managing HS as early as possible is important3,5 The first step for people living with HS is to speak to their GP to help ensure an accurate diagnosis. Many GPs take a special interest in dermatology.

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. Mayo Health Clinic. Hidradenitis Suppurativa. Available at: April 9, 2013. Accessed October 1st, 2014
  2. Jemec G. Hidradenitis Suppurativa. N Engl J Med. 2012; 366:158-64.
  3. Collier F., Smith R., Morton C. Diagnosis and management of hidradenitis suppurativa. BMJ. 2013; 346:f2121.
  4. Fimmel S, Zouboulis CC. Comorbidities of hidradenitis suppurativa (acne inversa). Dermatoendocrinol 2010; 2:9-16.
  5. 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.
  6. Revuz, J., 11 Chaussee de al Muette, 75016 Paris, France Eur Acad of Dermatology and Venereology; 23.9: 985-998


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AXHUD141459a Date of Preparation Nov 2014

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