Hidradenitis suppurativa: When does it appear?

Most people who have hidradenitis suppurativa see or feel their first painful lump sometime after puberty but before the age of 30. The condition worsens over time and usually lasts several decades. Experts don't know what exactly causes hidradenitis suppurativa. However, several factors are believed to play a role in the development of the condition, including:

  • Biological sex and hormones. More women than men have hidradenitis suppurativa, although men in general experience more-severe symptoms. In women, symptoms tend to flare up shortly before menstrual periods and regress during pregnancy or breast-feeding. This suggests a link between hidradenitis suppurativa and sex hormones.
  • Smoking. It's common for people with hidradenitis suppurativa to have smoked tobacco sometime in their lives. In addition, smoking worsens the symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa and might make treatment more difficult.
  • Obesity. Several studies have linked obesity with more-severe forms of hidradenitis suppurativa. Obesity can increase friction in between skin folds. This can worsen symptoms, since the lumps that characterize the condition often grow on parts of the body where skin rubs together.
  • Metabolic syndrome and diabetes. People with metabolic syndrome are more likely to have hidradenitis suppurativa than is the general population. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol — that occur together and increase the risk of diabetes. Research also suggests a link between hidradenitis suppurativa and diabetes.
  • Genetics. If a close family member has hidrenitis supporativa, there's an increased chance you might be affected by the condition.

If you suspect that you have hidradenitis suppurativa or if a member of your family has been diagnosed with the condition, talk to your doctor. Addressing any lifestyle risk factors, as well as diagnosing the condition as early as possible, might reduce the impact of the condition on your life.

Feb. 23, 2016 See more In-depth