Hidradenitis suppurativa is a skin condition that leads to pus-filled bumps and sores or lesions under the skin. Smoking is one possible risk factor with links to hidradenitis suppurativa.

It is a long-term, noncontagious skin condition that typically affects the hair follicles in two areas where a person’s skin touches.

This article examines the link between smoking and hidradenitis suppurativa, treatment for the condition, tips for quitting smoking, and when to speak with a healthcare professional.

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According to the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, and Skin Diseases, health experts do not know the exact cause of hidradenitis suppurativa. However, healthcare professionals suggest that several combination factors may increase the risk of developing the condition.

Researchers have identified smoking as a potential risk factor for hidradenitis suppurativa.

According to a 2019 literature review, the nicotine in tobacco products may promote the growth of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus in:

  • intertriginous areas, which are two areas of the body where the skin rubs together, such as the groin folds
  • the movement of components that control inflammation in the body
  • the thickening of certain outer skin layers

Additionally, a 2021 meta-analysis found people with hidradenitis suppurativa are four times more likely to smoke than those in the control group without the condition.

A 2018 retrospective cohort analysis indicated that the incidence of hidradenitis suppurativa seems to double in people who smoke tobacco products.

According to multiple studies from another 2018 study, smoking also appears to increase the severity of the condition once it develops. This may include the number of body parts that hidradenitis suppurativa skin lesions affect.

Smoking also may affect treatment outcomes. According to a 2016 study, nonsmokers appear to respond better to hidradenitis suppurativa treatment than smokers.

Treatment for hidradenitis suppurativa involves decreasing the amount of skin lesions and preventing the disease from worsening. The treatment a doctor recommends may depend on the severity of symptoms, including the extent of the skin lesions.

Some treatment options include:

  • Biologic medications: These include medications such as tumor necrosis factor inhibitors, which may help reduce inflammation.
  • Antibiotics: In some cases, doctors may recommend these medications that kill bacteria to help treat someone’s symptoms.
  • Corticosteroids: A healthcare professional may administer steroid injections into hidradenitis suppurativa lesions to help decrease inflammation.
  • Pain relief medications: People may take these medications if hidradenitis suppurativa sores cause pain or discomfort.
  • Surgery and other procedures: Some of these procedures may include draining a hidradenitis suppurativa abscess or removing a lesion.

If applicable, a person can consider speaking with a doctor who can provide support and resources to help them quit smoking.

Some additional tips to quit smoking include:

  • Learn from any past attempts to quit smoking.
  • Focus on the reasons for quitting.
  • Find more positive ways to manage stress to avoid smoking, such as exercise, meditation, and breathing exercises.
  • Enlist support from family and friends to help with motivation.
  • Learn about medications that help people stop smoking, such as nicotine patches and gum.
  • Be patient and celebrate or make rewards for small milestones.

If someone suspects they may have hidradenitis suppurativa or another skin condition, they need to speak with a healthcare professional. Receiving an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible may help prevent the condition from progressing.

People with hidradenitis suppurativa may need more frequent monitoring by their dermatologist to look for signs of skin cancer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, this is because some individuals with hidradenitis suppurativa may have an increased risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma.

People can also consider consulting a doctor if they wish to quit smoking. A healthcare professional can provide support for quitting smoking.

Hidradenitis suppurativa is a long-term skin condition that leads to pus-filled bumps or lesions under the skin. Its exact cause remains unclear, although research indicates that there may be a link between the disease and smoking.

People with hidradenitis suppurativa who smoke can consider quitting smoking, alongside other treatments, to stop the disease from progressing and ease symptoms. Treatment may include various types of medications and procedures to help manage symptoms.

A healthcare professional can provide support for quitting smoking, if applicable, and recommendations for hidradenitis suppurativa treatments individually.