Living With Hidradenitis Suppurativa

This content is created by Healthgrades and brought to you by an advertising sponsor. More

This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the Healthgrades advertising policy.

7 Myths About Hidradenitis Suppurativa

  • couple comforting
    What exactly is hidradenitis suppurativa?
    Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), also know as acne inversa, is a chronic condition that causes boil-like bumps in the skin. The bumps often become large fluid-filled cysts than can lead to sinus tracts (tube-like channels under the skin) and scarring. Most people don’t know much about HS, and many doctors don’t always recognize it right away. Fortunately, awareness of HS is increasing, along with new treatment options.

  • girl with acne, skin, pimple
    Myth #1: HS is pretty much the same as regular acne.
    Both regular acne (also known as acne vulgaris) and acne inversa cause pimple-like bumps and cysts which can last a long time. Both can be triggered by certain hormones. However, there are several differences. Regular acne causes breakouts mainly on the face, neck, chest, and back, where you have oil glands. People with acne inversa get breakouts in the creases of the skin such as the underarms, groin, thighs, and buttocks, where sweat glands are located.  And blackheads, which are very common in regular acne, don’t usually occur in acne inversa.

  • hc_rosacea_treatment_medication_prescription_pills
    Myth #2: HS is treated the same as regular acne.
    Some medications are used for both regular acne and acne inversa, such as benzoyl peroxide washes, oral antibiotics, hormonal treatments, and oral retinoids (derived from vitamin A). However, topical treatments with retinoids, salicylic or glycolic acids, or antibiotics usually work well for regular acne, but not acne inversa. People with acne inversa may need to take stronger anti-inflammatory medications such as corticosteroids or biologic drugs. And people with acne inversa often need surgery to remove large cysts, sinus tracts, or scars.

  • shower-head
    Myth #3: You develop HS because of poor hygiene.
    While keeping clean and reducing bacteria on the skin can help reduce breakouts of acne inversa, there is no evidence that poor hygiene causes breakouts. Acne inversa lesions can drain and cause a bad odor or stains, but that isn’t your fault. Your doctor may recommend special washes or bleach baths in addition to regular bathing. Following your treatment plan is the best way to reduce embarrassing odor and stains.

  • Tube of cream
    Myth #4: There are no good treatments for HS.
    You may feel frustrated that your acne inversa isn’t getting better. But don’t give up. Let your dermatologist know if what you are using isn’t working as well as you’d hoped. Your doctor usually starts with traditional treatments such as antibiotics and special cleansers. But there are many different treatment options including hormonal or anti-inflammatory medications, lasers, and even surgery.


  • woman-stretching-on-exercise-mat
    Myth #5: There is nothing you can do to make your HS better.
    The most important thing you can do is follow your dermatologist’s treatment plan and stick with it. But you can also make some lifestyle changes that can really help your skin. If you are overweight, losing weight can help. Avoid smoking and manage your stress. Talk to your doctor about ways to avoid shaving, such as laser hair removal, and how to avoid heat and friction in your skin. These changes have been shown to help clear your skin and keep it clear.

  • Woman covering face
    Myth #6: You will have to live with the scars.
    If you have scars from acne inversa, you may be dealing with pain, tightness of the skin, and embarrassment. Talk to your doctor about surgery or laser treatments to remove your scars. While scar removal isn’t always easy and may not give perfect results, it can usually help your symptoms. If your doctor doesn’t perform these procedures, ask to talk to someone who does. Don’t forget to also continue your treatment plan for acne inversa, as preventing scars is better than treating them.

  • Medicine bottles
    Myth #7: There is nothing new to help your HS.
    Many treatments for acne inversa have been around for a long time, such as antibiotics and hormonal treatments. But there are some new options that may work better for you. Adalimubab (Humira) has recently been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat moderate to severe acne inversa. Adalimubab is a powerful medication called a biologic that works through your immune system. In addition, laser hair removal is being used more often to treat and prevent breakouts. And there are current research studies looking at new treatment options that may be available soon.


7 Myths About Hidradenitis Suppurativa

About The Author

Dr. Laura Marusinec is a pediatrician with expertise in urgent care and dermatology. She has been in practice for over 17 years. She is also a freelance medical writer and editor.
Was this helpful?
THIS CONTENT DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. This content is provided for informational purposes and reflects the opinions of the author. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional regarding your health. If you think you may have a medical emergency, contact your doctor immediately or call 911.