Hidradenitis suppurativa is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that causes bumps to appear on and under the skin. Little is known about what directly causes hidradenitis suppurativa, but it’s often confused with other conditions like pimples or cystic acne.
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“Many of the patients who present are so embarrassed to mention this condition that they hide their condition for very long periods of time because they think they are doing something wrong with their hygiene, but that is not the case. “, explains dermatologist Asfa. Aktar, DO.
If left undiagnosed, hidradenitis can spread or worsen and cause infection. It can also lead to quality of life issues, such as making it difficult to exercise or wear comfortable clothes. Although there is no cure, there are ways to ease symptoms, including pain, pus buildup, and scarring. Dr. Akhtar walks us through common treatments, as well as home remedies you can try temporarily (and some you should avoid).
What is hidradenitis suppurativa?
Hidradenitis suppurativa, also known as inverted acne, appears on parts of your body where your skin rubs against other skin. These areas may include:
- Inner thighs.
- Under or over the breasts.
This condition can begin to occur around puberty and is often confused with common acne. It develops in three stages:
- First stage: The sweat glands in the parts of your body where you have hair become inflamed and the opening of your hair follicles gets clogged. This causes cysts to form on or under the surface of your skin.
- Second step: Your cysts begin to connect to each other through tunnels deep under your skin that fill with fluid. Your cysts become painful to the touch.
- Third step: Your cysts are breaking open, producing a foul-smelling discharge or pus. These open wounds may or may not heal completely and leave irreversible scars.
“Hidradenitis is the most severe form of inverse acne,” says Dr. Akhtar. “It progresses over time and causes irreversible damage.”
The best treatment plan for hidradenitis suppurativa
If you have early signs of hidradenitis suppurativa, you should see your healthcare provider or board-certified dermatologist as soon as possible to avoid worsening symptoms.
“As soon as you feel you have pimples in your armpit or groin, and acne treatments you could have done at home aren’t working, you should see a board-certified dermatologist,” advises Dr. Aktar. .
For moderate to severe hidradenitis, adalimumab (Humira®) is often used as an injection to help reduce inflammation. This medication is also used to help treat other inflammatory conditions like plaque psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis, and Crohn’s disease.
For mild or early-stage hidradenitis, antibiotics may also be helpful.
Natural and home remedies for hidradenitis suppurativa
There are temporary solutions you can turn to at home that can help relieve symptoms until you can get medical treatment.
Aloe vera can soothe your pain
Aloe vera is often used to soothe itchy or irritated skin (especially sunburn). Because it’s a moisturizer, it may relieve pain and inflammation, but it won’t heal your cysts or open sores.
Warm compresses can help drain your cysts
You should never tear or cut your cysts, as this can lead to infection. Instead, using a warm compress (or letting hot water from a shower hit the affected area) can help your cysts drain more cleanly.
Adjust your diet
“Foods high in dairy, complex carbohydrates, or foods high in fat tend to make hidradenitis worse,” notes Dr. Akhtar. The Mediterranean diet, rich in anti-inflammatory foods, is best for anyone with hidradenitis.
Obesity can also add its own set of complications. Obese people have higher levels of insulin-like growth factors (IFGs) – hormones that stimulate growth but lower blood sugar. High levels of IFG can lead to larger cysts in larger volumes, so adjusting your diet to reduce these levels may help.
Turmeric can help with inflammation
Turmeric, which contains a natural anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin, has been studied for its antimicrobial properties and has a number of health benefits. Although you can make a paste with turmeric and apply it directly to the skin, Dr. Akhtar suggests adding it to your diet instead.
“A simple pinch of turmeric in your daily diet would be enough to give you the anti-inflammatory properties you need,” says Dr. Akhtar.
Increase zinc and vitamin D intake
A 2018 study showed that people with hidradenitis were more likely to have low levels of zinc and that these lower levels may contribute to an increase in severe symptoms. Dr. Akhtar claims that zinc and vitamin D relieve symptoms. But high levels of zinc could interfere with your body’s ability to absorb copper through your intestines, which can lead to a variety of issues, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
“If someone starts taking high levels of zinc, they should make sure they also take a multivitamin with copper,” says Dr. Akhtar.
Wear loose clothing
Because of where the symptoms of hidradenitis occur, you should try to reduce friction as much as possible. Wear comfortable, loose clothing until your flare-up is treated. Otherwise, you run the risk of further irritating your skin and causing your cysts to burst.
Things to Avoid If You Have Hidradenitis Suppurativa
Here are some things you should never do because they could make your condition worse.
Do not use tea tree oil
Tea tree oil has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties, but you should avoid using this home remedy if you suffer from hidradenitis.
“Oils clog pores, and you don’t want your pores to be more clogged,” says Dr. Akhtar. Clogged pores can lead to increased production of pus, which can be painful and cause further infection.
Do not use rubbing alcohol
Where aloe vera moisturizes, rubbing alcohol does the opposite and dries out your skin. Dr. Akhtar suggests using only rubbing alcohol to clean an infected cyst. You should not routinely use it as a form of treatment. Dry skin can cause problems to get worse in the future and cause other cysts to rupture when your skin becomes too dry.
Bleach baths are not a good idea
If you suffer from eczema, a condition that makes your skin red and itchy all over, a bleach bath may be effective as it kills bacteria associated with skin infections. However, the bacteria associated with hidradenitis are different and so deeply embedded in your skin that a bleach bath never reaches the infection.
Although you can soothe your symptoms with these home remedies, they will not cure the condition. The best thing you can do for hidradenitis suppurativa is to see your doctor as soon as possible. They will put you on the right path to treatment.