Hidradenitis Suppurativa

Hidradenitis suppurativa is a condition in which lumps form under the skin, typically in the groin or armpit areas, which over time heal with extensive scar formation. Because this rare condition is often misdiagnosed, many people experience progressively worsening symptoms for a long time before receiving the right diagnosis and right treatment.

With deep experience in recognizing the common as well as uncommon signs of hidradenitis suppurativa, the specialists of the Mount Sinai Department of Dermatology are highly skilled in diagnosing and treating this rare condition. We are also seeking new and better treatment options through clinical trials. In addition, we are the only institution in New York State with physicians who are board certified in both rheumatology and dermatology, enabling us to offer uniquely specialized care for hidradenitis suppurativa patients.

Causes of Hidradenitis Suppurativa

Although the exact cause of hidradenitis suppurativa is not yet known, it is believed that the condition begins in the hair follicle, where keratin (a type of protein), sweat, and bacteria build up to the point of bursting, forming a lump.

Hidradenitis suppurativa appears to run in families and could be triggered by factors like cigarette smoking and being overweight. Women are more likely to develop this condition than men.

Symptoms of Hidradenitis Suppurativa

This condition involves lumps forming in the skin that may cause pain, itching, burning, and swelling. The lumps can be pus filled. Multiple lumps can appear at the same time, grow, break open, and heal, then reappear in the same spot. Over time they can heal with extensive scarring.  While these lumps mostly form in the armpit and groin, they could also appear in other areas, such as the breasts, abdomen, and inner thighs.

If untreated, hidradenitis suppurativa could lead to significant scarring, infections, an increased risk of skin cancer, anxiety, and impaired quality of life, to name a few associations.

Treatments for Hidradenitis Suppurativa

Because hidradenitis suppurativa is often misdiagnosed, patients can go for years as symptoms worsen and as lumps rupture and scar. At Mount Sinai’s Department of Dermatology, our specialists are experienced in diagnosis and providing the full range of hidradenitis suppurativa treatments. We are also investigating new therapies through clinical trials.

Following diagnosis, which includes a skin exam and testing of any fluid that leaks from the lesions, your doctor will customize the best care plan for you. In addition to helping you develop a skin care plan, we will offer treatment options include the following:

  • Biologic medications: Humira (Adalimumab) is currently the only drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat hidradenitis suppurativa. Other medications may also be used as needed, such as antibiotics.
  • Outpatient procedures: These options include corticosteroid injections, laser hair reduction, drainage, removing the skin over the abscess, removal of a lesion, and surgery.