What is HS

Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) (pr. hide-ra-den-eye-tis sup-you-rah-tee-vah), also known in some countries as Acne Inversa (AI), is a chronic, non-contagious skin disease, which appears as a boil-like abscess in the apocrine gland-bearing areas, such as the armpits, breasts and groin. This recurrent inflammatory, and often painful disease is often overlooked, but has a profound impact on quality of life.

The abscesses develop on the skin in the following areas:

  • around the groin and genitals

  • in the armpits

  • on the buttocks and around the anus (back passage)

  • below the breasts


The abscesses may also spread to the nape of the neck, waistband and inner thighs. Other isolated areas that have been known to be affected include the front or back of the legs, the sides, the back area and even the face.

Many people with hidradenitis suppurativa also develop a pilonidal sinus, which is a small hole or "tunnel" in the skin.

Smoking and obesity have both been associated with hidradenitis suppurativa, and if you're obese and/or smoke it's likely to make your symptoms worse, and will delay the healing process.

Hidradenitis suppurativa usually starts around puberty, but it can occur at any age. It's less common before puberty and after the menopause, which may suggest that the sex hormones play a part. Many people with the condition also have acne and hirsutism (excessive hair growth).

HS was first described in 1833 by the French anatomist and surgeon Alfred-Armand-Louis-Marie Velpeau, which is where the name Velpeau's Disease originates. It was later investigated by another French Surgeon called Artistide Auguste Stanislas Verneuil from 1854 to 1865, earning it the name Verneuil's Disease, and it was he who conducted the first clinical studies of HS. Verneuil later renamed the disease Hidrosadenite Phlegmonous in 1864, which translates to the English Hidradenitis Suppurativa, meaning the inflammation of a sweat gland (Hidradenitis) containing or associated with pus (Suppurativa).

Several studies have attempted to determine the prevalence of HS. The first reported prevalence rate was a personal experience of one dermatologist who estimated a prevalence of 0.0003 %. More recent research in the UK has determined the prevalence to be between 0.77% and 1.19%.  It has long been generally accepted that HS affects approx 1% of the UK population.