We have changed our visitation policy for the safety of our patients and staff. Click here for the updated visitation policy and click here for information about COVID-19.

Lahey Health is now part of Beth Israel Lahey Health

by Polsdorfer R
(Acne Conglobata; Acne Inversa [AI]; Apocrine Acne; Apocrinitis; Fox-Den Disease; HS; Hydradenitis Suppurativa; Pyodermia Significa Fistulans; Velpeau's Disease; Verneuil's Disease)


Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is long term, recurring condition of the hair follicle. Inflamed nodes and cysts form in the armpits and groin. These may also be found under the breasts, and around the nipples, and anus. Other areas may be affected, but this isn’t common.

Skin, Hair, Hair Follicle
Nuclus factsheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


The hair follicle becomes blocked causing inflammation. This may lead to abscesses, infection, or scars. The sweat glands may also become inflamed.

A mix of factors lead to HS such as:

  • Genetics
  • An overactive immune system
  • How hormones act on the body

Risk Factors

HS is more common in women than in men. Your chances of HS are also higher if you:


Most people with HS have problems after adolescence. But HS can happen at any age. HS may cause:

  • Burning, itching, or painful lumps in the armpits, groin, under the breasts, around the nipples or anus, and other involved areas
  • Pus leaking from breaks in the lumps
  • Scarring


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. Your answers and a physical exam may point to HS. In some cases, you may have blood tests or swabs of the fluid from your skin.


The goal of care is to control outbreaks. Care may involve:

Home Care and Lifestyle Changes

Making changes may help you lower your chances of an outbreak:

  • Lose extra weight —talk to a dietitian who can help you do it safely
  • Quit smoking —your doctor can help you find a plan to successfully quit
  • Try to stay cool to lower the chances of sweating
  • Stay away from heat or humidity when you can
  • Wear loose clothing that won’t rub on your skin
  • If your skin is irritated, don’t shave until it’s better

Talk to your doctor about customized bandaging


Your doctor may advise:

  • Antibiotics
  • Medicines to lower the effects of the immune system such as:
    • Corticosteroids
    • Biologic agents
    • Retinoids
    • Hormonal therapy

Medicines may be as a pill, rubbed into the skin, or given as a shot.


If other methods don’t work, surgery may be an option. Methods of surgery:

Other procedure options include:

  • Laser—uses heat to remove lesions
  • Cryosurgery—uses cold to remove lesions
  • Laser hair removal
  • Skin graft


There is no way to prevent HS because the exact cause is unknown.


American Academy of Dermatology  https://www.aad.org 

Hidradenitis Suppurativa Foundation  http://www.hs-foundation.org 


Canadian Dermatology Association  https://www.dermatology.ca 

Health Canada  https://www.canada.ca 


Fardet L, Dupuy A, Kerob D, et al. Infliximab for severe hidradenitis suppurativa: transient clinical efficacy in seven consecutive patients. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007;56:624-628.

Hidradenitis suppurativa. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115217/Hidradenitis-suppurativa  . Updated August 9, 2016. Accessed June 19, 2018.

Hidradenitis suppurativa. NORD—National Organization of Rare Diseases website. Available at: https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/hidradenitis-suppurativa. Updated 2012. Accessed June 19, 2018.

Lam J, Krakowski AC, Friedlander SF. Hidradenitis suppurativa (acne inversa): management of a recalcitrant disease. Pediatr Dermatol. 2007;24(5):465-473.

Shah N. Hidradenitis suppurativa: a treatment challenge. Am Fam Physician. 2005;72(8):1547-1552.

11/30/2015 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance  https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115217/Hidradenitis-suppurativa  : Tzellos T, Zouboulis CC, Gulliver W, et al. Cardiovascular disease risk factors in patients with hidradenitis suppurativa: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Br J Dermatol 2015;173(5):1142-1155.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2018
  • Update Date: 06/19/2018