Hidradenitis suppurativa: Causes Symptoms and Treatment

Hidradenitis suppurativa

Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a chronic skin condition marked by abscesses in areas where skin rubs together, such as the armpits or groin. These lesions can leave behind rupturing wounds and form tunnels that drain pus, says Christopher Sayed, MD, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. 

Sometimes severe HS is treated with surgery to remove tunnels and scarring. This treatment results in deeper wounds that can take weeks or months to heal, Dr. Sayed says. 

It’s important to properly care for wounds in order to promote healing and prevent infection. Use these wound care tips to stay comfortable, shield your clothing from leakage, and protect your skin from irritation and infection. 

1. Talk to your doctor for tips on caring for your specific wounds.

 The recommended dressings and cleaning instructions might vary a bit based on the severity and depth of your wounds, where they are located, and how well they are healing. For example, just after surgery, you might need a dressing that absorbs drainage, but after a few weeks, when the wound is dry, a slim bandage might be sufficient.   “It has to be tailored to what’s going on with your skin in the moment,” says Sayed.

 2. Clean your wound about once a day.

 After surgical treatment, it’s usually recommended to wash your wound once a day with soap and water, says Joslyn Sciacca Kirby, MD, associate professor and vice chair for education in the department of dermatology at Penn State University. The goal is to remove any buildup of liquid draining from the wound and any petroleum jelly used to keep the wound moist. (More on that to come.) 

3. Wash gently with mild soap and water.

 A mild cleanser is fine, says Sayed. There’s no need to use harsh soaps, scrubs, or rubbing alcohol. “Occasionally patients will use harsh chemicals, but most learn pretty quickly that if they’re too rough on that skin, it's just going to make things worse,” says Sayed Remember, too, that cleaning wounds aids healing, but it won’t make HS go away. “There’s often this misconception even among medical providers that there’s a problem with hygiene in these patients, and I always tell patients that if hygiene fixed HS, there’d be no HS,” says Sayed. “The first thing that these patients or anybody else does if they’ve got pus draining from an area is try to keep the area clean and protect it the best they can. But it’s not as simple as that.”