I have been working on a new free PCOS 101 resource for you, and have been doing quite a bit of research on PCOS. I came across a symptom of PCOS listed in one of my PCOS textbooks, by Dr. Samuel Thatcher that you rarely hear associated with PCOS – Hidradenitis Suppurativa or HS. When I was speaking at the PCOS Foundation Symposium last fall, there was a dermatologist who was also speaking who mentioned seeing a correlation between PCOS and HS. Chances are you have never heard of HS before or how it may relate to PCOS.
The HS-USA website describes Hidradenitis Suppurativa as follows:
“Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS), also known as ‘Acne Inversa’, is a physically, psychologically, and socially disabling disease affecting inverse areas of the body (those places where there is skin-to-skin contact – armpits, groin, breasts, etc.), and where apocrine glands and hair follicles are found. It is non-contagious and recurrent; typically manifesting as a progression from single boil-like, pus-filled abscesses, or hard sebaceous lumps, to painful, deep-seated, often inflamed clusters of lesions with chronic seepage (suppuration — hence the name) involving significant scarring.
Abscesses may be as large as baseballs in some people, are extremely painful to the touch and may persist for years with occasional to frequent periods of inflammation, culminating in drainage, often leaving open wounds that will not heal. These ‘flare-ups’ are often triggered by stress, hormonal changes, or humid heat. Drainage of the lumps provides some relief from severe, often debilitating, pressure pain; however, pain occurs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for HS sufferers during flare-ups, and is difficult to manage.
HS typically goes undiagnosed for years because patients are ashamed to speak with anyone. When they do see a doctor, the disease is frequently misdiagnosed. Only relatively few physicians are able to recognize it and even when they do, suggested treatments are often ineffective, temporary and sometimes even harmful. Historically, HS has been considered a rare disorder, because it is difficult to accurately estimate the number of HS victims; they conceal their condition, even from friends and close relatives. Estimates, however, indicate at least 1 million – potentially up to 12 million – Hidradenitis Suppurativa sufferers in the United States alone!”
Hidradenitis suppurativa is a hormonally related chronic, painful, condition that is often misdiagnosed as a problem of poor hygiene. The incidence of HS is increased in PCOS. Hidradenitis Suppurativa and PCOS can go hand in hand. HS has been linked to a hyperandrogen state
The only study I found related to PCOS and HS, suggested that female patients presenting with HS should prompt investigations for underlying PCOS and insulin resistance. (2) Talk to your doctor if you suspect that you have HS.
Recommendations for all patients include avoiding trauma to the affected area, losing weight, smoking cessation, using gentle antibacterial soaps, and avoiding shaving these regions. Antibiotics are used for secondary infections, but they do not alter the primary course of disease. Antiandrogens may be useful; however, in trials, only finasteride has provided minimal relief. (3)
If you suffer from HS you might also try some the natural remedies below:
- Changes in diet avoiding inflammatory foods, and triggers like wheat, gluten, dairy, caffeine, foods high in refined carbohydrates.
- Warm compresses with apple cider vinegar, and taking hot baths with apple cider vinegar in the water.
- Turmeric: 1 tsp morning and at night in warm water.
You can find more info regarding natural remedies at http://www.earthclinic.com/CURES/hidradenitis_suppurativa.html
1 Alikhan, Ali; Lynch, Eisen (2009). “Hidradenitis suppurativa: a comprehensive review”. J Am Acad Derm 60 (4): 539–561. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2008.11.911.PMID 19293006.
2. J Cutan Med Surg. 2007 Jul-Aug;11(4):125-31.Hidradenitis suppurativa in 64 female patients: retrospective study comparing oral antibiotics and antiandrogen therapy. Kraft JN, Searles GE.
3. Jansen I, Altmeyer P, Piewig G. Acne inversa (alias hidradenitis suppurativa). J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2001 Nov;15(6):532-40. Review