Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) can be lifelong. While there is no cure, treatment can help manage the condition and prevent it from worsening. HS may also resolve in some cases.

It is important to know that HS is not a hygiene-related condition or a sexually transmitted infection. A person living with HS cannot pass it on to anyone else.

Read on to learn more about HS, how to prevent it from worsening, and how to manage symptoms.

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According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), HS can be a lifelong condition that persists for years. There is also no cure for HS.

However, DermNet notes that the condition can improve during pregnancy in those who experience flares during menstruation and resolve when a person reaches menopause.

It is also possible for the symptoms of HS to reduce or disappear spontaneously. However, the scarring will not resolve.

Lifestyle changes can also affect HS. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), those who quit smoking or lose extra body weight may develop fewer flare-ups and, in some cases, get rid of HS.

Without treatment, HS can worsen over time.

The earliest stage of HS appears as a single, boil-like cyst. It will either slowly dissipate and clear up or form an abscess and drain into the surrounding area.

When the abscess heals, a scar can form. Scarring can lead to pain or reduced range of motion.

Without treatment to control flares and prevent scarring, affected areas can form into large areas of lesions connected by sinus tracts. Sinus tracts are pus-filled tunnels that form underneath the skin.

It is important for a person to receive treatment for HS. Treatment can:

  • manage the condition
  • lessen symptoms
  • reduce flare-ups
  • heal wounds
  • relieve pain
  • prevent it from worsening

How to prevent HS from worsening

A dermatologist can create a treatment plan for HS to control flares, reduce pain, and prevent them from exacerbating.

Treatment may include:

  • skin care plans
  • topical medications, such as topical antibiotics or a peel to open the clogged hair follicles
  • oral medications, such as:
    • oral antibiotics
    • oral retinoids
    • hormonal medication, including birth control pills
    • biologic medications
  • in-office procedures, such as:
  • treating infection
  • wound care
  • pain management

A person should follow the dermatologist’s treatment plan, which will provide instructions on caring for lesions, preventing infection, and minimizing scarring.

Some self-care options can also help prevent and treat flares:

  • washing the skin using an antimicrobial wash to help reduce bacteria and flare-ups
  • applying black tea or warm water compresses to the painful lump for 10 minutes several times a day
  • checking deodorant or antiperspirant to make sure it is mild and does not contain alcohol, fragrances, dyes, parabens, baking soda, or alcohol
  • wearing looser clothing during flares
  • achieving and maintaining a moderate body mass index
  • avoiding or quitting smoking
  • avoiding shaving or waxing the skin and consider laser hair removal instead
  • avoiding picking at or popping the lumps

If a person does shave their skin, they should take precautions to help avoid cuts. This involves washing the area of skin with antibacterial soap before shaving and applying a gel-to-foam shaving gel.

A dermatologist should also be able to recommend a deodorant.

HS can lead to difficulty with movement if scars develop in certain parts of the body. For example, if sores form in the armpit, it can restrict the arm from reaching up. Scars between the legs or on the buttocks can cause pain or discomfort when sitting.

Researchers are also studying a link between some types of inflammatory arthritis and HS.

A 2020 study notes that the risk of psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis appears higher among those with HS than those without.

However, the authors state that the study did not prove that there was a relationship between inflammatory arthritis and HS. Further research is necessary.

HS is a chronic skin condition that leads to boil-like cysts and scarring over time. It may come and go, but without treatment, it tends to worsen and may lead to the development of scarred tunnels under the skin.

HS develops due to blocked hair follicles under the skin. When they have reached their capacity, they rupture and leak contents into the surrounding tissue, allowing other hair follicles to become blocked.

In some cases, HS may resolve. This can happen spontaneously, when a person reaches menopause, after quitting smoking, or after losing extra body weight.

There is no cure for HS, but treatment can manage the condition and ease symptoms.