Understanding Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS): The Hidden Disease

Understanding Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS): The Hidden Disease

1% of the general population suffer from HS 1, 7, silently

On the occasion of the HS awareness week, ,it is time to shed light on HS disease in Lebanon which has long been in the shadows despite the social and physical burdens undergone by patients in the country.


In fact, HS is a chronic, often painful immune-mediated disease characterized by in­flamed areas typically located around the armpits and groin. These areas often include lesions, nodules and boils, and usually occur where many sweat glands are located, as well as under the breasts, on the buttocks and in the inner thighs, where skin rubs together. Lesions caused by HS can be very uncomfortable and painful, often interfering with the quality of life of those living with the condition 1,3

The exact prevalence of HS is still unknown, however it’s estimated that it affects at least 1% of the general adult population in the world. Additionally, three quarters of diagnosed patients are women who start developing HS in their early 20s. 3,7


Though the exact causes of hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) are unclear, research suggests that the root of HS lies in specific defects within hair follicles. 4,5. This condition is often misdiagnosed and many people living with HS don’t always feel comfortable talking about their symptoms or seeking out their dermatologist for help despite the fact that HS is not contagious and is not related to hygiene. 5,6

While not all cases of HS are progressive (meaning that the condition can increase in severity over time), some cases can continue to reappear and grow more severe if not properly managed. As a result, diagnosing and properly managing HS as early as possible is important. The first step for HS patients is to speak to their dermatologist to help ensure an accurate diagnosis and to also seek support from their entourage who can alleviate the emotional and psychological burden. 1,2,5

For more information about HS, check the following website available in 3 languages, Arabic, English and French: www.hsonline-lb.com

  1. Mayo Health Clinic. Hidradenitis Suppurativa. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hidradenitis-suppurativa/DS00818. Website last visited on June 14.
  2. Collier F., Smith R., Morton C. Diagnosis and management of hidradenitis suppurativa. BMJ. 346 ;2013:f2121.
  3. Jemec G. Hidradenitis Suppurativa. N Engl J Med. 2012; 64-366:158.
  4. Danby FW, Jemec GB, Marsch WCh, von Laffert M. Preliminary findings suggest hidradenitis suppurativa may be due to defective follicular support. Br J Dermatol 2013;168:1034–1039.
  5. Zouboulis CC, Tsatsou F. Disorders of the apocrine sweat glands. In: Goldsmith LA, Katz SI, Gilchrest BA, Paller AS, Leffell DJ, Wolff K. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, Chicago: McGraw Hill; 2012. p947–959.
  6. Dufour ND, Emtestam L, Jemec GB. Hidradenitis suppurativa: a common and burdensome, yet under-recognised, inflammatory skin disease. Postgrad Med J 2014;90:216–221.
  7. Revuz J. Hidradenitis Suppurativa. JEADV 2009, 23, 985 –998