Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a skin disease that causes abscesses and scarring on the skin, commonly around the groin, buttocks, breasts and armpits, although it can affect other areas as well. HS is not rare, and approximately 1 to 4 percent of the population has this condition. It is possible that many more may have the disease but have not felt able to tell their doctor about their symptoms.
- Care at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
- Groups, Classes & Support
- Research & Clinical Trials
- Symptoms, Diagnosis & Outlook
Care at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
The clinic for Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) at the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center specializes in the management of HS. The clinic is staffed by dermatologists, nurse practitioners and researchers who work together to treat each person and to advance HS research.
At follow-up visits, our dermatologists reevaluate the patient's acne, ask for feedback concerning the treatment and make any necessary adjustments in the treatment plan.
The length of time for treatment varies and is based on the individual's age and response to treatment.
The team members in the Department of Dermatology are the providers of choice in treating many skin conditions for people in the region. The department handles more than 40,000 patient visits every year. As one of the highest-ranked clinics for patient satisfaction within the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the department is also nationally recognized, with many of our providers listed in the Best Doctors national database.
Treatment will be tailored to each patient based on where HS happens, the severity of symptoms and the person’s individual health and choices for treatment.
Treatment for HS includes topical ointments rubbed on the skin, pills or injections. Both medicines and surgeries can be used, and our team of clinicians are able to discuss these options.
Clinical trials are another method of treating HS. Our team includes investigators and nurses dedicated to bringing cutting-edge research and treatments to people with this skin condition.
Penn State Dermatology
200 Campus Drive
Entrance 3, Suite 100
Hershey, PA 17033
Hours: Thursday, 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
Groups, Classes & Support
Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other parents and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.
Living with a chronic skin condition like HS is not just about managing physical symptoms and flare-ups. Living with a recurring, painful and sometimes visible condition can have emotional, social and interpersonal effects. It can also affect the way you see yourself, the world and the future.
Penn State Dermatology has partnered with Hope for HS, the first organization to organize face-to-face support meetings for people with HS. A group meeting for people with HS takes place at our department every other month facilitated by Penn State clinicians, researchers, and staff. We encourage you to share your experiences, hear from others and learn about HS. The meeting is free and open to people with HS and their friends/family.
Meetings are typically held bimonthly 5:30-7 p.m., at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, University Physician Center, Room 4200. Visit Hope for HS for a schedule of upcoming support group meetings.
If you can’t attend but want to call into the meeting, please contact Hope for HS chapter director Melissa Butt at PSHDerm@hopeforhs.org.
Research & Clinical Trials
Researchers in the Department of Dermatology are currently evaluating diet and its role in HS, coping with HS and several new treatments for HS.
Symptoms, Diagnosis & Outlook
What is Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS)?
HS is a skin condition that causes bumps, abscesses and scarring on the skin. HS happens most often around the groin, buttocks, breasts and armpits, although it can affect other areas as well. HS happens in about 1 to 4 percent of the population. Hidradenitis suppurativa tends to begin around puberty but can also start later. It is more common in women – about 75 percent of people with HS are female, and 25 percent are male.
Is hidradenitis suppurativa hereditary?
For some people HS can run in a family. About 1 in 3 people with HS will have a family member who also has the skin condition.
Is hidradenitis suppurativa contagious?
No, it can’t be passed between people by skin-on-skin touching or touching the drainage from the lesions.
What are the symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa?
Hidradenitis suppurativa is usually a very painful condition, and lesions of the HS will often drain pus, which can cause problems and require daily dressings. Some people with HS may also have inflammation in their joints (also known as arthritis). Hidradenitis suppurativa can have an impact on people’s emotions and cause depression.
HS often occurs in folds of the skin such as the underarms (armpits), groin, thighs and the genital and buttock regions. Some people get HS in only one of these locations; others have more than two or more areas that have HS. The early stage of HS can have blackheads and abscesses, which look like red lumps, pus spots and cysts. More severe HS has wounds (ulcers) that may not heal easily or tunnels under the skin that leak pus. More severe lesions of HS heal with scars.
Causes & Risk Factors
What causes hidradenitis suppurativa?
It is still not clear why some people get this disease, but it is thought the inflamed spots or lumps develop after a blockage of the hair follicles. Material builds up in the follicle and bursts under the skin, triggering inflammation.
- Hormones may be involved in HS, and some women notice that HS can be worse before menstrual periods. Some patients may benefit from hormone treatments.
- Bacteria (germs) that normally live on the skin may become trapped in the blocked gland or hair follicle. It is not clear whether these bacteria cause the disease or just contribute to the immune system’s reaction.
- The immune system is overactive and causes the redness, swelling, pain and itch that people have with their HS lesions.
- In a few people, HS can be linked to the bowel condition called Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
- People with HS are more likely to have acne and/or a pilonidal sinus (a chronic abscess at the tailbone).
- Smoking and obesity are linked to HS, but the condition can also affect non-smokers and those with normal weight.
- Hygiene, meaning the type of soap, how much you use or many times a day you shower does NOT cause hidradenitis suppurativa.
How will hidradenitis suppurativa be diagnosed?
The diagnosis is usually made by a doctor based on your information about the spots and by looking at the areas. There is no test that can be done on the skin or blood to prove a rash is HS. HS can be misdiagnosed as a boil (a pocket of infection in the skin) or folliculitis. This can result in delayed treatment.
How can hidradenitis suppurativa be treated?
Treatment is available for everyone with HS. Treatments include topical ointment that is applied to the skin and other medicines that are taken as a pill or injected. Surgeries can also be performed to treat HS. Some surgeries are small and done to a single spot of HS, and other surgeries are larger to remove HS tracks or groups of HS lesions.
Outlook & Prognosis
Can hidradenitis suppurativa be cured?
HS can’t be cured right now, but treatments can decrease the symptoms of HS for many people. HS can come and go over the years and will eventually become inactive.