Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a rare condition that causes abscesses and cysts to form on a person’s skin. The most commonly affected areas are the underarms, under the breasts, inner thighs, groin, and buttocks. Though this disease is not contagious, it can be extremely painful for that affected person. Cysts that form from HS can go through periods of inflammation, swelling to the size of golf and even tennis balls. In certain cases, a small incision can be made to drain the cyst. In more severe cases sinus tracts can form between cysts, which can lead to open wounds that take a long time to heal. Certain factors such as hot and humid weather, as well as wearing clothes that do not breathe and rub the cysts, can cause inflammation.
HS is not a rare condition. It is estimated that it affects between 1/100 to 1/1000 in Western populations. Females are more likely to be affected, with a female to male ratio of 4 or 5 to 1. Symptoms of HS normally begin after puberty but rarely after menopause with the mean age of onset being 20-23 years old. The specific cause of HS is unknown, although it probably results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Talk to your doctor to decide on the best treatment if you or a family member has been diagnosed with HS. Support groups are also a good source of information and a way to connect with others affected with HS.