Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Hidradenitis Suppurativa: A Treatment Challenge


Am Fam Physician. 2005 Oct 15;72(8):1554.

  See related article on hidradenitis suppurativa.

What is hidradenitis suppurativa?

Hidradenitis suppurativa (say: hi-dra-dun-I-tis sup-you-ra-TI-va) is a disease that causes painful bumps or sores in the armpits, groin, and anal area.

Who gets hidradenitis suppurativa?

No one knows what causes hidradenitis suppurativa. More women get it than men. It usually begins after you become a teenager and before age 40. It may run in families, but it is not contagious (no one can “catch” it from you). Poor cleaning does not cause this disease.

How can I tell if I have hidradenitis suppurativa?

If you have hidradenitis suppurativa, you may have itching and burning in the affected areas. You may sweat more there, too. You may notice a painful red bump under your skin that may drain pus. If this does not get better, or you get more of them, you should see your doctor.

How is hidradenitis suppurativa treated?

Treatment depends on how many sores there are, how painful they are, and whether they are infected. Your doctor may wait for one or two weeks to see if the sores get better on their own. Your doctor may give you medicine.

Most people with this disease get the sores again, but it may be years later. For some people, though, the disease gets worse over time. Some people may need surgery. Surgery is the best treatment for hidradenitis suppurativa.

How can I stop flare-ups?

There is no sure way of stopping flare-ups. For some people, shaving or using deodorant irritates their skin. Try not to wear tight clothing around the affected areas and avoid hot, humid climates. A warm bath, antibacterial soap, or antiseptic medicine to stop infection may help.

Staying healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep may help. If you are overweight, losing weight may help you feel better. Avoiding stress also helps some people.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

American Academy of Family Physicians

Web site:

American Osteopathic College of Dermatology

Web site:

Telephone: 800–449–2623

Fax: 660–627–2623


This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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