If you have hidradenitis suppurativa you might be well aware of the negative impacts it can have on your skin’s appearance. Even worse, it can affect your mental health and self-esteem. Luckily, there are ways to minimize the adverse effects of this condition.
Hidradenitis suppurativa is a skin condition that results in tiny lumps underneath the skin that may become larger and inflamed. Flare-ups mostly cycle in and out, occurring in areas prone to sweat such as the groin and armpits. The cause of this condition is unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of environmental and genetic factors. There is no known cure, but there are many treatments and lifestyle changes a patient can make to increase tolerability to this in order to take their life back.
1. Laser Hair Removal
There are many reasons why someone might consider laser hair removal, but this one is debatably more unexpected. The root of hidradenitis suppurativa lies in clogged hair follicles. This makes laser hair removal a fabulous option because the process is intended to destroy these follicles to prevent hair from growing back. Although it is unconventional, there are many advantages to considering this treatment, including:
- Less pain
- Less scarring
- Less adverse side effects
- High success rate
It is reported by a clinical study that 32% to 72% of patients saw improvements within 2 to 4 months of laser hair removal treatment. It is a relatively safe process if performed by a licensed professional. When the follicle is damaged, there seems to be improvement due to the lack of a follicle to be clogged by oils and dead skin.
It’s important to note that improvements were seen mostly in patients with mild (stage 1 or 2) hidradenitis suppurativa. If there is scar tissue around the follicles, as seen in stage 3, the laser treatment may be less effective. The sessions also tend to be expensive and have to recur 3 or more times. Regardless, due to the positive aspects, it’s worth talking to a dermatologist and determining if laser therapy can work for you.
While laser hair removal inflicts minimal pain and scars, surgery may do the exact opposite. If a follicle becomes infected, it can quickly fill up with odorous pus. Not only is this embarrassing and uncomfortable, it can be dangerous. If the condition is moderate to severe, surgical options are considered, such as:
- Draining the abscesses
- Unroofing (limited or expansive)
- Surgical removal and skin grafting
Dependent on the severity of the case, abscesses under the skin can form pockets that tunnel together. This can be remedied by removing some of the outer skin and extracting the nodules and tunnel formations. This process is called unroofing and it may be used on single pockets as well. If the abscess is simply drained, however, it has a tendency to come back in the same spot.
If some of the other treatments occur early enough, they can prevent recurrence and even lead to remission. These surgeries can be done under local anesthetic with little scarring, or the most invasive procedures will need a bit more of preparation and lead to more scarring. Electrosurgery can reduce the chance of scars. The type of treatment you need will be determined by your dermatologist and care team.
There are certain medications that can help subside infection, lessen the pain and prevent a recurrence. Often prescribed for hidradenitis suppurativa are topical creams, antibiotics, and pain relievers. The method chosen will, again, depend on the severity of the condition.
Topical creams can be applied to the areas affected, lessening the chance of bacteria infecting the follicles. This is only successful in mild cases. Antibiotics can be taken orally or intravenously, and they are administered in more severe, widespread cases. These medicines enter your body and fight off unwanted bacteria. You might be prescribed with over-the-counter or prescription-only pain medication to soothe the pain associated with inflamed nodules.
4. Lifestyle and Diet Changes
A recurring theme of hidradenitis suppurativa is that the treatment is variable with the severity of the case. In conjunction with doctor-recommended treatments, patients can see improvements by changing certain aspects of their lifestyle. Some positive impacts have been seen when individuals incorporate these changes into their daily routines:
- Mild cleansers
- Antiseptic washes
- Over-the-counter antimicrobials
- Absorbent powders
- Warm compresses
- Proper open wound care
- Loose-fitting clothes
- Hypoallergenic laundry products
- Less dairy, red meat, and sugars
These are all changes that sufferers of the condition can try at home. There will be varying results, and it’s often trial and error.
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Hidradenitis suppurativa was once thought to be rare. However, it’s now reported more frequently, and it’s thought that 1 in 100 people are diagnosed with the condition. As an embarrassing issue, it can be underreported and not talked about in social support groups. That shouldn’t be the case, because it is quite common. Finding individuals that have the same condition to talk to, could help keep patients mentally healthy.
Hidradenitis Suppurativa is definitely not pleasant, but there are options to treat the symptoms. Patients can lessen the negative impacts of hidradenitis suppurativa and live a normal, thriving life. Always consult your physician before trying any treatments, and keep your head up along the way.