Breaking Down Misconceptions About Hidradenitis Suppurativa

The difficulty with hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) goes well beyond how to pronounce it. The chronic, painful and progressive inflammatory skin condition can affect every aspect of a person’s life. What’s worse, many suffer the physical, social, and emotional burdens for an average of 7-10 years before receiving an accurate diagnosis and management plan. While awareness of HS has increased, it can still be difficult for HS patients to find answers and navigate disease management and appropriate treatment options.

HS may cause painful bumps, abscesses or nodules in private, sensitive areas of the body such as the groin or underarms. People may overlook symptoms because they can appear like ingrown hairs or acne, or don’t even bring it up with their doctor because they are embarrassed – which can also add to the timing of reaching an accurate diagnosis.

With more than three decades of experience, Dr. Scott Drew of Dermatology Associates of Mid-Ohio has witnessed firsthand the condition’s potentially devastating effects on his patients. People often suppress their whole HS experience from their doctors, so Dr. Drew grasps the importance of grounding his patient relationships in trust.

“I want my patients to feel comfortable opening up to me about the impact HS has had on their lives so we can work together to change the course of several years of misinformation they may have read or received from previous providers,” Dr. Drew says. “I can help them better understand their condition and let them know there are treatment options – with the appropriate management, HS may not need to define their lives.”

To break through misinformation, Dr. Drew is setting the record straight on three common misconceptions.

Misconception 1. HS is directly caused by poor hygiene or being overweight

Common misconceptions, such as HS is a direct result of poor hygiene or being overweight, may lead to delays in diagnosis and appropriate management. HS is not a disorder of the sweat glands, and although secondary infections can occur, it is not caused by infections. While the exact cause of this systemic inflammatory skin condition is unknown, HS is thought to begin within the body. Medical professionals know genetics, environment, and the immune system can contribute to symptom development, but it’s important to remember that HS is not caused directly by patient behavior.

“HS may keep people from doing things like working, dating or even going to a healthcare provider because they may feel ashamed or they may have received incorrect information from doctors who didn’t understand the condition,” Dr. Drew notes. “For some patients, the nodules and abscesses may cause them to wake up at night, and some have to carry a change of clothes around at all times just in case of leakage. Stigma surrounding this condition exacerbates feelings of shame and embarrassment, which often contributes to a delay in diagnosis and treatment. Fortunately, people have become more willing to share their experiences to help decrease the stigma.”

Misconception 2. HS can only be treated with surgery

Most of Dr. Drew’s patients share similar stories that involve draining the abscesses and nodules, often at the emergency room.

“While surgery is an option for some, it may not be an option for all patients living with HS,” he explains. “If you see a surgeon, they may recommend surgery, but it may only be a temporary resolution. Since HS stems from an overactive immune system, inflammation throughout the body could be treated from the inside, not only on the surface of the skin. There are a number of treatment options dermatologists may prescribe to help manage signs and symptoms of HS, including antibiotics, corticosteroids, and biologics.”

Misconception 3. There are no FDA-approved treatments indicated for HS

Compared to when he first began treating HS, Dr. Drew notes the evolved understanding and impact of available treatments such as HUMIRA (adalimumab), which is a prescription medicine used to reduce signs and symptoms of moderate to severe hidradenitis suppurativa in people 12 years and older. “With available treatments such as HUMIRA, I want those suffering from HS to seek care early, find a dermatologist who understands HS, and speak up about their experience with HS.”

Serious infections have happened in people taking HUMIRA. These serious infections include tuberculosis (TB) and infections caused by viruses, fungi, or bacteria that have spread throughout the body. Some people have died from these infections. HUMIRA may increase the chance of getting lymphoma, including a rare kind, or other cancers. HUMIRA can cause serious side effects including hepatitis B infection in carriers of the virus, allergic reactions, nervous system problems, blood problems, heart failure, certain immune reactions including a lupus-like syndrome, liver problems, and new or worsening psoriasis.

Open and honest conversations with a dermatologist who specializes in treating HS may help people manage their disease. HUMIRA, the first and only FDA-approved treatment for moderate to severe hidradenitis suppurativa in people 12 years of age and older, works by targeting and blocking a specific source of inflammation that is thought to contribute to symptoms. Learn more about HUMIRA and partnering with your dermatologist at Please see full accompanying prescribing information at

USE for HUMIRA® (adalimumab)

HUMIRA is a prescription medicine used to reduce the signs and symptoms of moderate to severe hidradenitis suppurativa in people 12 years and older.

Important Safety Information About HUMIRA® (adalimumab)

What is the most important information I should know about HUMIRA?

You should discuss the potential benefits and risks of HUMIRA with your doctor. HUMIRA is a TNF blocker medicine that can lower the ability of your immune system to fight infections. You should not start taking HUMIRA if you have any kind of infection unless your doctor says it is okay.

  • Serious infections have happened in people taking HUMIRA. These serious infections include tuberculosis (TB) and infections caused by viruses, fungi, or bacteria that have spread throughout the body. Some people have died from these infections. Your doctor should test you for TB before starting HUMIRA, and check you closely for signs and symptoms of TB during treatment with HUMIRA, even if your TB test was negative. If your doctor feels you are at risk, you may be treated with medicine for TB.
  • Cancer. For children and adults taking TNF blockers, including HUMIRA, the chance of getting lymphoma or other cancers may increase. There have been cases of unusual cancers in children, teenagers, and young adults using TNF blockers. Some people have developed a rare type of cancer called hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma. This type of cancer often results in death. If using TNF blockers including HUMIRA, your chance of getting two types of skin cancer (basal cell and squamous cell) may increase. These types are generally not life-threatening if treated; tell your doctor if you have a bump or open sore that doesn’t heal.

What should I tell my doctor BEFORE starting HUMIRA?

Tell your doctor about all of your health conditions, including if you:

  • Have an infection, are being treated for infection, or have symptoms of an infection
  • Get a lot of infections or infections that keep coming back
  • Have diabetes
  • Have TB or have been in close contact with someone with TB, or were born in, lived in, or traveled where there is more risk for getting TB
  • Live or have lived in an area (such as the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys) where there is an increased risk for getting certain kinds of fungal infections, such as histoplasmosis, coccidioidomycosis, or blastomycosis. These infections may happen or become more severe if you use HUMIRA. Ask your doctor if you are unsure if you have lived in these areas
  • Have or have had hepatitis B
  • Are scheduled for major surgery
  • Have or have had cancer
  • Have numbness or tingling or a nervous system disease such as multiple sclerosis or Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • Have or had heart failure
  • Have recently received or are scheduled to receive a vaccine. HUMIRA patients may receive vaccines, except for live vaccines. Children should be brought up to date on all vaccines before starting HUMIRA
  • Are allergic to rubber, latex, or any HUMIRA ingredients
  • Are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to breastfeed
  • Have a baby and you were using HUMIRA during your pregnancy. Tell your baby’s doctor before your baby receives any vaccines

Also tell your doctor about all the medicines you take. You should not take HUMIRA with ORENCIA® (abatacept), KINERET® (anakinra), REMICADE® (infliximab), ENBREL® (etanercept), CIMZIA® (certolizumab pegol), or SIMPONI® (golimumab). Tell your doctor if you have ever used RITUXAN® (rituximab), IMURAN® (azathioprine), or PURINETHOL® (mercaptopurine, 6-MP).

What should I watch for AFTER starting HUMIRA?

HUMIRA can cause serious side effects, including:

  • Serious infections. These include TB and infections caused by viruses, fungi, or bacteria. Symptoms related to TB include a cough, low-grade fever, weight loss, or loss of body fat and muscle.
  • Hepatitis B infection in carriers of the virus. Symptoms include muscle aches, feeling very tired, dark urine, skin or eyes that look yellow, little or no appetite, vomiting, clay-colored bowel movements, fever, chills, stomach discomfort, and skin rash.
  • Allergic reactions. Symptoms of a serious allergic reaction include hives, trouble breathing, and swelling of your face, eyes, lips, or mouth.
  • Nervous system problems. Signs and symptoms include numbness or tingling, problems with your vision, weakness in your arms or legs, and dizziness.
  • Blood problems (decreased blood cells that help fight infections or stop bleeding). Symptoms include a fever that does not go away, bruising or bleeding very easily, or looking very pale.
  • Heart failure (new or worsening). Symptoms include shortness of breath, swelling of your ankles or feet, and sudden weight gain.
  • Immune reactions including a lupus-like syndrome. Symptoms include chest discomfort or pain that does not go away, shortness of breath, joint pain, or rash on your cheeks or arms that gets worse in the sun.
  • Liver problems. Symptoms include feeling very tired, skin or eyes that look yellow, poor appetite or vomiting, and pain on the right side of your stomach (abdomen). These problems can lead to liver failure and death.
  • Psoriasis (new or worsening). Symptoms include red scaly patches or raised bumps that are filled with pus.

Call your doctor or get medical care right away if you develop any of the above symptoms.

Common side effects of HUMIRA include injection site reactions (pain, redness, rash, swelling, itching, or bruising), upper respiratory infections (sinus infections), headaches, rash, and nausea. These are not all of the possible side effects with HUMIRA. Tell your doctor if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

Remember, tell your doctor right away if you have an infection or symptoms of an infection, including:

  • Fever, sweats, or chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blood in phlegm
  • Weight loss
  • Warm, red, or painful skin or sores on your body
  • Diarrhea or stomach pain
  • Burning when you urinate
  • Urinating more often than normal
  • Feeling very tired

HUMIRA is given by injection under the skin.

This is the most important information to know about HUMIRA. For more information, talk to your health care provider.

Please see the Full Prescribing Information, including the Medication Guide, for HUMIRA.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

If you are having difficulty paying for your medicine, AbbVie may be able to help. Visit to learn more.

Sponsored by AbbVie.


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