Managing other health risks when you have hidradenitis suppurativa

Hidradenitis suppurativa raises your risk of other health conditions. Take these steps to reduce your risk.

Hidradenitis suppurativa's most obvious impact on your health is the painful lumps it causes under your skin. But it appears to affect much more than just the outside of your body. Hidradenitis suppurativa is so frequently associated with other health conditions — affecting your waistline, heart, joints and beyond — that you're wise to be wary of the other risks that may be lurking beneath your skin.

Engaging in a healthy lifestyle and working closely with your doctor to identify and treat other health conditions are important steps to help reduce your risk.

Understand the health risks

Some of the most common health conditions that occur with hidradenitis suppurativa include:

  • Obesity. Not only is obesity common with hidradenitis suppurativa, but extra weight also worsens the skin condition. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) — your weight in kilograms (kg) divided by your height in meters (m) squared — of 30 or higher. But not everyone who has hidradenitis suppurativa is obese.
  • Metabolic syndrome. This condition is a combination of high blood glucose, obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. It also raises your risk of heart disease and strokes.
  • Diabetes. People with hidradenitis suppurativa are more likely to have diabetes than people who don't have the skin condition. Obesity is implicated in both hidradenitis suppurativa and diabetes.
  • Depression. Hidradenitis suppurativa can be an emotionally challenging disease to live with — and depression is another commonly related health condition. Some people with hidradenitis suppurativa might abuse drugs or alcohol, or have suicidal thoughts.
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases. These include Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Common signs and symptoms include diarrhea, fever, fatigue, abdominal pain and cramping, blood in your stool, reduced appetite, and unintended weight loss.
  • Heart disease. Heart disease describes a range of conditions that affect your heart. Heart disease symptoms depend on what type of heart disease you have. Signs and symptoms can include chest pain, a rapid or irregular heart rate, shortness of breath, swelling, fatigue, and fainting.
  • Joint problems. Inflammatory forms of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, are common in people with hidradenitis suppurativa. Symptoms include joint pain and stiffness.
  • Other skin diseases. Skin conditions that cause open, noninfectious sores on the legs, as well as those that cause deep abscesses, tracts and nodules, commonly occur with hidradenitis suppurativa.
  • Skin cancer. People with hidradentis suppurativa seem to be at greater risk of the skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Signs and symptoms vary from a hard red bump to a flat lesion that may be scaly or crusty.

Reduce your risks

Experts don't fully understand why these conditions are more common when you have hidradenitis suppurativa. Talk to your doctor about your risks and a screening plan to spot these conditions early. You can also help reduce your risk with healthy lifestyle choices:

  • Shed pounds. If you're overweight, even a small amount of weight loss can have a big impact on your hidradenitis suppurativa and related health risks. Achieving a healthy body weight can reduce your risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome. Losing weight also reduces inflammation in the body and eases strain on painful joints.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Focus on fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, and your whole body reaps the benefits. A balanced, healthy diet helps ward off metabolic syndrome, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
  • Treat depression. For serious depression, you might need an antidepressant medication. Therapy or counseling also might be helpful. A healthy lifestyle — complete with plenty of sleep, an engaged social life, time for relaxation and meditation, exercise, and nutritious foods — is also important for your mental and physical well-being.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking worsens hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms and can trigger flares, and it further increases your risk of heart disease and many of these other related health conditions.
  • Create an exercise routine. To protect against many of the conditions related to hidradenitis suppurativa, get moving. Exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, broken up throughout the week. Try moderate intensity aerobic exercise such as biking or going for a brisk walk. Twice a week, add in strength training.
  • Get regular skin checks. You're probably in close contact with your dermatologist about your hidradenitis suppurativa, but don't forget to be on the lookout for irregularities that might signal squamous cell carcinoma. Protect your skin from sun damage with daily sunscreen and clothing that covers your arms and legs.

Work with your doctor to treat your hidradenitis suppurativa and monitor your overall health. These healthy lifestyle choices can also help improve your wellness inside and out.

Dec. 29, 2018 See more In-depth

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