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Hidradenitis suppurativa: Tips for managing


Should I see a dermatologist to treat hidradenitis suppurativa?

Dermatologists have experience treating hidradenitis suppurativa: A patient with stage III hidradenitis suppurativa explains how her dermatologist opened the door to treatment plans that worked for her.

Even with a dermatologist’s treatment plan, HS can be difficult to control. Dermatologists have found that patients who follow a treatment plan and take good care of themselves tend to get the best results.

Here are nine self-care tips that dermatologists have found can benefit people living with HS.

  1. If you’re overweight, lose weight. For many patients who are overweight and have HS, losing weight can reduce flare-ups and prevent HS from worsening. In some studies, patients who lost weight saw their HS go away.

    Losing weight has additional benefits for anyone who has HS. Studies show that people with HS have a higher risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Losing weight and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet can reduce your risk of developing these and other diseases.

    If you’re having trouble losing weight, ask your dermatologist or primary care doctor about programs that can help you.

  2. If you smoke, quit. Quitting smoking can help you live a longer, healthier life. It can also reduce HS flare-ups and prevent HS from worsening.

    Occasionally, patients who stop smoking get rid of their HS.

    For many people, quitting smoking is difficult. The cravings for nicotine can be intense. To help people quit, the American Lung Association (ALA) has been offering a quit smoking program for more than 35 years. Today, the ALA says that it’s ranked as one of the most effective programs for helping people quit smoking for good.

    Learn more at Freedom from Smoking®.

    Lifestyle changes can have long-lasting effects

    Patients who quit smoking or lose extra weight can reduce (and sometimes get rid of) hidradenitis suppurativa.

    Overweight woman flexing her biceps and holding a bag full of healthy groceries
  3. Keep your dermatology appointments. Finding the most effective treatment for you can take time. As your HS lessens, you may need a different treatment plan. Continuing to see your dermatologist can help you get the care you need.

    By seeing a dermatologist, you get care from the doctor who receives the most medical training in treating HS. Continuing to see a dermatologist can also help reduce your risk of developing a serious infection.

    If you need a dermatologist, you can locate one in your area at Find a Dermatologist.

    In some U.S. cities, you’ll also find an HS Specialty Clinic.

  4. Treat a painful lump at home with heat. If you have a painful, deep lump, doing one of the following can bring quick relief:

    • Place a warm tea bag on the lump. To do this, boil water. Once the water boils, place a teabag in a cup and pour the boiling water over the tea bag. Let the tea bag steep in the hot water for a minute. Then remove the warm tea bag and place it on the HS. Keep the tea bag on that spot for 10 minutes.
    • Apply a warm compress. To make a warm compress, place a clean washcloth under hot water. Wring out the excess water. Then apply the warm compress to the HS for 10 minutes.

  5. Keep your skin cool. While applying heat can offer quick pain relief, overheating and sweating can cause HS to flare. Dermatologists recommend that people with HS try to limit sweating. In hot weather, staying in a cool, indoor space can help. If you need help reducing sweating, talk with your dermatologist. The right antiperspirant may help. Some antiperspirants are too harsh for skin affected by HS.

  6. Join an HS support group. Researchers have discovered that when people with HS connect with others who have HS, they tend to feel better. They also tend to have less severe HS. If you’re looking for a support group to join, the Hope for HS Foundation offers Virtual Support Group Meetings on Facebook.

  7. Pay attention to joint pain. It’s easy to think that joint pain is nothing serious. Often, it’s not. However, researchers have found that people living with HS have a higher risk of developing diseases that affect the joints, such as arthritis. If you have joint pain, be sure to tell your dermatologist.

  8. If HS flares when you wear tight or form-fitting clothes, opt for a looser fit. For some people, a tight waistband or snug fit can cause HS to flare.

  9. Understand that HS can increase your risk of developing depression, anxiety, or both. Research shows that people who have HS have a higher risk of developing these conditions than people who don’t have HS. Learn more about this risk and what can help at, Hidradenitis suppurativa: What to do when depression hits.

Your dermatologist can give you specific tips

While these self-care tips can help, HS can affect your skin in different ways. By working one-on-one with your dermatologist, you can find what works best for you.

Related AAD resources

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References
Alikhan A, Sayed C, et al. “North American clinical management guidelines for hidradenitis suppurativa: A publication from the United States and Canadian Hidradenitis Suppurativa Foundations Part I: Diagnosis, evaluation, and the use of complementary and procedural management.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2019;81:76-90.

Alikhan A, Sayed C, et al. “North American clinical management guidelines for hidradenitis suppurativa: A publication from the United States and Canadian Hidradenitis Suppurativa Foundations Part II: Topical, intralesional, and systemic medical management.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2019;81:91-101.

Narla S, Price KN, et al. “Proceeding report of the fourth Symposium on Hidradenitis Suppurativa Advances (SHSA) 2019.” J Am Acad Dermatol (2020: [epub ahead of print] doi:10.1016/ j.jaad.2020.05.114.

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