Painful bumps. Nodules. Abscesses. These are some of the symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa, usually called HS.
The discomfort and pain these symptoms cause go far beyond the physical. They can make you withdraw from social situations. Or cover up who you really are.
The thing to remember is that HS is a lot more than what you see and feel on the outside.
In fact, it’s believed to be related to a problem in the immune system.
That’s why people sometimes use the term “autoimmune disease” to describe HS. But research has shown a more accurate description—it’s a systemic inflammatory condition that’s related to the immune system.
While there are many things still not understood about HS, let’s take a deeper look at what medical research has uncovered.
Picture your immune system operating like a network of factories throughout your body. It produces highly-specified proteins and cells that fight off harmful germs and bacteria. And it can help you recover from injuries like broken bones, bruises, or sprains.
When your immune system is healthy, these cells and proteins usually stay at normal levels.
But when they come across trouble in your body, the factories get a signal to crank up production.
This sudden, temporary increase in cells and proteins causes inflammation to happen—a natural reaction in your body.
In this case, inflammation is a good thing—it helps your body to heal.
Once the problem is dealt with, another signal goes out to resume normal production.
But for people with HS, the signal to create inflammation is uncontrolled, producing too many cells and proteins throughout the body for too long.
Even when you’re not seeing or feeling a painful flare at the skin level, your immune system is overactive making it more likely you’ll experience flares in the future.
The consequences of HS’s uncontrolled inflammation starts on the inside and then usually shows up as bumps, nodules, and abscesses.
As HS progresses, tunnels and scars start to form within the deeper tissue. In severe HS, abscesses and scarring are more widespread with tunnels connecting beneath the skin.
Like in HS, people with other chronic diseases can experience uncontrolled inflammation from their immune system. It just impacts other areas of their body.
So what does this mean to you? It’s that once you understand the science behind HS, you can easily see how this condition is nobody’s fault—especially your own.
And the good news is that medical research has been growing rapidly in recent years—with many strides being made in the understanding of HS and how to care for it.
Now that you recognize the important role systemic inflammation plays, a candid talk with your dermatologist can help you determine the best plan for managing your HS.