HS is something that your body does – it’s not you HS is something that your body does – it’s not you HS is something that your body does – it’s not you

What is hidradenitis suppurativa (HS)?

Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a chronic, systemic (throughout the body) inflammatory condition where an overactive immune system contributes to inflammation below the surface of the skin.

Hidradenitis suppurativa on armpit: Stage 2 (moderate) Hidradenitis suppurativa on armpit: Stage 2 (moderate) Hidradenitis suppurativa on armpit: Stage 2 (moderate)

Hidradenitis Suppurativa Armpit - Stage II (Moderate)
Photo courtesy of Dr. Martin Miehe

With HS, that means inflammation starts on the inside—before showing up in the layers of the skin as bumps, nodules, abscesses, and tunnels. While the exact cause of HS is unknown, there’s a lot more to HS than what you can see on the skin.

HS can get worse over time. It can progress to form tracts or tunnels between abscesses deep within the skin, as well as scarring on the surface, and more. Explore HS symptoms and pictures to learn more on the stages of HS and what to look for.

Since the 1830s, medical researchers have worked to better understand the condition. Check out this timeline of HS research to see what research milestones led to the current understanding of HS.


Areas affected by hidradenitis suppurativa

HS usually develops in areas that grow hair, and where skin rubs against skin. It can also occur where sweat glands are located. Areas affected by HS can include:

Illustration of a body with highlights on areas affected by hidradenitis suppurativa Illustration of a body with highlights on areas affected by hidradenitis suppurativa Illustration of a body with highlights on areas affected by hidradenitis suppurativa
  • Underarms
  • Inner thighs
  • Underneath the breasts 
  • Buttocks
  • Groin area
  • Back of the neck 
  • Ears
Is HS an autoimmune disease? Is HS an autoimmune disease? Is HS an autoimmune disease?

While people sometimes use the term “autoimmune disease” to describe HS, research has shown that it’s actually a systemic inflammatory condition that’s related to the immune system.

Who is affected by HS?

People all over the world are living with HS. However, some groups are more affected than others.

  • Female vs. male – Women are 3X more likely to get HS than men.
  • Genetics – HS can run in families. More than 30% of people with HS have a family member who also has the disease.
  • Age range – HS usually develops during adolescence or in young adults in their early 20s. It rarely develops past age 55.

When it comes to HS, do you know what’s fact and what’s BS?

Fact: There are lots of misconceptions out there about HS. To help clear up some of the fiction floating around, take the quiz below to find out what’s really true about HS.

HS is contagious.

THAT’S BS

HS is not contagious. It can’t be spread to other people.

THAT’S BS

HS is not contagious. It can’t be spread to other people.

Smoking is the cause of HS.

THAT’S BS

Smoking does not cause HS. BUT it has been linked to increasing the severity of HS and should be discussed with your doctor.

THAT’S BS

Smoking does not cause HS. BUT it has been linked to increasing the severity of HS and should be discussed with your doctor.

HS is a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

THAT’S BS

HS is not an STD and it cannot be sexually transmitted. Talk to your doctor to learn more.

THAT’S BS

HS is not an STD and it cannot be sexually transmitted. Talk to your doctor to learn more.

Being obese or overweight is the cause of HS.

THAT’S BS

Being obese or overweight does not cause HS. BUT it has been linked to increasing the severity of HS and should be discussed with your doctor.

THAT’S BS

Being obese or overweight does not cause HS. BUT it has been linked to increasing the severity of HS and should be discussed with your doctor.

HS is caused by poor hygiene.

THAT’S BS

Poor hygiene does not cause HS. While the exact cause of HS is unknown, genetic and immune factors are believed to play a role.

THAT’S BS

Poor hygiene does not cause HS. While the exact cause of HS is unknown, genetic and immune factors are believed to play a role.

Not much is known about HS.

THAT’S BS

Today, more and more research continues to emerge, with inflammation and the immune system being one of the key factors linked to the disease.

THAT’S BS

Today, more and more research continues to emerge, with inflammation and the immune system being one of the key factors linked to the disease.

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