What is hidradenitis suppurativa?

Can Fam Physician. 2017 Feb;63(2):114-120.


Objective: To provide family physicians with an understanding of the epidemiology, clinical features, diagnosis, and management of hidradenitis suppurativa (HS).

Sources of information: A PubMed literature search was performed using the MeSH term hidradenitis suppurativa.

Main message: Hidradenitis suppurativa is a chronic, recurrent, and debilitating skin condition. It is an inflammatory disorder of the follicular epithelium, but secondary bacterial infection can often occur. The diagnosis is made clinically based on typical lesions (nodules, abscesses, sinus tracts), locations (skin folds), and nature of relapses and chronicity. Multiple comorbidities are associated with HS, including obesity, metabolic syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and spondyloarthropathy. Although the lack of curative therapy and the recurrent nature makes HS treatment challenging, there are effective symptomatic management options.

Conclusion: Family physicians should be suspicious of HS in patients presenting with recurrent skin abscesses at the skin folds. Family physicians play an important role in early diagnosis, initiation of treatment, and referral to a dermatologist before HS progresses to debilitating end-stage disease.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Biological Products / therapeutic use
  • Hidradenitis Suppurativa / diagnosis*
  • Hidradenitis Suppurativa / epidemiology
  • Hidradenitis Suppurativa / etiology
  • Hidradenitis Suppurativa / therapy*
  • Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Keratolytic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Resorcinols / therapeutic use
  • Retinoids / therapeutic use


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Biological Products
  • Hormones
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Keratolytic Agents
  • Resorcinols
  • Retinoids
  • resorcinol