The woman was undiagnosed for 10 years, she has Hidradenitis Suppurativa
- For over 10 years I lived with painful knots around my inner thighs, groin and buttocks.
- After finally seeing a dermatologist, I was diagnosed with hidradenitis suppurativa.
- There is no cure for this chronic inflammatory skin condition, but treatments can reduce symptoms and pain.
I’ve always called them “my bumps”. At the age of 13, these painful nodules started patterning on my skin around my inner thighs, groin and butt. Trust me when I say there is nothing more humiliating than needing your mom’s help to apply acne cream they areas.
A few years later, “my bumpies” disappeared. I was 19 years old and naively thought that the transition from adolescence to adulthood had set me free. When they came back with a vengeance at 22, I felt completely defeated.
Your 20s should be carefree, but these hideous bumps made me feel dirty and disgusting. My self-esteem fell. The simple act of walking could be painful if my thighs rubbed the wrong way against each other or, worse, caused an abscess to burst in public. Physical intimacy was terrifying for me. I never wanted anyone to see the bumps.
When I finally mustered up the courage to overcome my deep-seated discomfort and talk to a close friend about it, she suggested I see a dermatologist. That visit led to a life-changing diagnosis and a treatment plan that helped restore my confidence.
The diagnosis and treatment restored my confidence
The dermatologist examined me briefly before concluding, “Your symptoms point to… hidradenitis suppurativa.” She said it nonchalantly, the jumble of syllables rolling off her tongue so easily, adding “or HS for short.”
That abbreviation sounded like a sexually transmitted disease to me, but I was quickly reassured that, no, it’s a chronic inflammatory skin condition. While the exact cause is unknown, it is estimated to affect 1 to 4% of the US populationwith women are three times more likely than men have it. It is not a sign of poor hygiene, nor is it contagious and can disappear and reappear throughout life. It is an often misdiagnosed conditionand because of the unpleasant areas in which it can pop up, HS often goes undiagnosed.
I was stunned. What I struggled with for over 10 years was identified in 10 seconds.
“There’s no cure,” she said, leaving me discouraged until she added, “but there’s a lot we can do to help fight the pain.”
I was given a corticosteroid injection on the spot – pun intended – the treatment I now seek for the debilitating attacks. I was told to start using Hibiclens, an antiseptic skin cleanser, two to three times a week on the affected areas, along with a daily topical antibiotic, clindamycin.
In addition to drug treatment, I changed my lifestyle. When I exercise, I wear materials that absorb sweat and reduce skin friction. Low impact exercises tend to be more enjoyable for my HS. If I’m doing cardio, I take a quick shower, and if I can’t, I bring a clean, dry change of clothes to reduce the amount of time sweat stays in the areas where I have inflammation.
The American Academy of Dermatology says research suggests Weight loss and dietary changes help reduce symptoms of HS, but I’ve been losing and gaining weight and playing around with my diet without seeing much difference in how my HS presents itself. But everyone and every body is different. So far, I’ve learned what works for me, and if anything changes, I know my dermatology team can help. I’m not alone anymore.
A happier, healthier me
Until there is a cure, I know I will have to live with my HS. But now that I know what the condition is and how to treat it, I can finally live my life without shame. Since seeking treatment, I have been able to prevent it more painful stages of HSmaking the occasional bad bout feel less tragic.
I now talk about my HS more freely with friends and family because I don’t want anyone else to feel the way I did for so many years. Getting a diagnosis and a treatment plan has changed my life, as has a partner who supports me and loves me and “my bumps”.