Living With Hidradenitis Suppurativa

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Dating With Hidradenitis Suppurativa

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Holding hands, caucasian couple in love

It’s date night, and you know you should be really excited, but instead you’re anxious. Not about your date, but about the chronic skin condition that you’ve been trying to hide.

With hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), also known as acne inversa, tender lumps or nodules develop in areas when skin rubs against skin—the groin, armpits, buttocks, and upper thighs. Women, who are disproportionately affected by acne inversa, sometimes develop these lumps underneath their breasts.

The lumps themselves are usually painful, but that’s not the worst part for most people afflicted with acne inversa, which is also called hidradenitis suppurativa. Often, the lumps break open, and a pus-like discharge drains out of the lesions. It’s messy and embarrassing—the pus can stain clothes and smell bad—right at a time when you’re hoping to look your best and impress someone. And if that’s not enough to deal with, the lumps and lesions tend to form scars when they heal up.

“How can I go on a date like this?” you may be asking yourself. It’s not an uncommon reaction. Research shows that many people with acne inversa shy away from intimate relationships because they’re ashamed of their condition. Try some of these suggestions to help cope with your acne inversa and feel even better about yourself as you walk out the door to meet your date.

Wear clothing that’s loose and comfortable.

Develop a few tried-and-true coping mechanisms that can help you minimize the impact of your condition when you’re out on the town. If you know that tight-fitting clothes exacerbate the problem, wear clothing that is loose-fitting and comfortable.

Treat yourself to something new.

Find something you’d love to wear on your date that boosts your self-confidence. For example, a pretty new bra (as long as it doesn’t rub) or camisole might make you feel a little better and help disguise some scars, too.

Accentuate the positive.

Pick your favorite physical feature—one that’s not affected by your condition—and highlight it. Maybe you love your hair—pick a beautiful accessory to wear for your date. Or perhaps you’re proud of your hands—get a pre-date manicure with your favorite nail polish color.

Choose a cool date spot.

Choose a location where you’re less likely to get hot, since overheating and sweating can cause flare-ups.

Try laser hair removal.

Those nodules—the hallmark of acne inversa—tend to be the result of blocked hair follicles. So if you normally shave or otherwise remove hair from your body as part of your grooming ritual, you might want to investigate laser hair removal.

Be honest with your partner.

At some point, you may become very comfortable with someone and want to become intimate. Educate your partner about your condition. Help him or her understand what acne inversa is, as well as treatments and coping strategies that you use.

Abandon unhealthy habits.

Smokers who quit smoking will not only extend their life expectancy, but they can also reduce hidradenitis suppurativa flare-ups. Plus, your breath will smell much fresher, an appealing prospect for most suitors.

Try counseling.

Having acne inversa can negatively impact your self-esteem. But you don’t have to suffer silently. Finding a counselor to talk to can help you cope with the emotional effects of the disease.

Seek out support from others with the condition.

Online support groups can be a great resource—and a great comfort, as you can build relationships with others who know what you’re going through and who can offer suggestions. You might start with the  Hidradenitis Suppurativa Foundation.

Investigate long-term treatments.

Medication and surgical options may be possibilities for you, depending on the location and severity of your lesions.

Remember that you’re not alone.

You might feel like you’re the only person who’s ever had to deal with this syndrome. But actually, you have lots of company, even if you don’t know it—acne inversa is estimated to affect about 1% of the population. And it has a genetic component—about one-third of people affected by it have a family member who’s also had it.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Sep 10
  1. Jovanovic M. Hidradenitis Suppurativa Treatment & Management. Medscape.
  2. Sabat R, et al. Increased Prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome in Patients with Acne Inversa. Plos One. Published: February 16, 2012DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031810.
  3. Hidradenitis suppurativa. Mayo Clinic.
  4. Kurek A, et al. Profound disturbances of sexual health in patients with acne inversa. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012 Sep;67(3):422-8, 428.e1.
  5. Hidradenitis suppurativa: Diagnosis, treatment, and outcome. American Academy of Dermatology.
  6. Hidradenitis suppurativa: Tips for managing. American Academy of Dermatology.
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