Plenty of minor skin conditions can cause random bumps. Although annoying, they eventually go bye-bye. Ingrown hairs, occasional pimples, or razor burn are all examples.

Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is different. HS is a progressive skin condition that usually shows up as boil-like lumps in friction-prone, sensitive areas. These lumps can worsen and form interconnected tracts underneath your skin that can become inflamed and develop infections.

HS is not just a wayward clogged pore. Something more is going on with the body. But what? Let’s take a look at the potential causes of HS.

The exact cause of HS isn’t yet known. Researchers think HS bumps likely form when excessive keratin develops and blocks hair follicles. This causes them to swell and then eventually rupture, kicking off an immune response within your skin.

A research review showed that about 35 percent of people with HS have some family history of the condition, which hints that there could be a genetic component at play. Possibly, environmental factors trigger the inflammation or the overproduction of keratin in people who are genetically susceptible to HS.

What are those possible environmental triggers? Although they haven’t been determined as causes, smoking and obesity are both considered risk factors for developing HS. And they have been linked to more severe diseases.

HS can occur at any age, but it’s less common before puberty or after menopause. Sex hormones could play a role in the condition. But more studies are needed.

One small study found a possible association between HS and Crohn’s disease, especially in cases where HS develops in your groin or anus.

HS is a progressive condition with different stages. During each stage, you may experience periods when your skin is doing well and at other times your HS-prone areas flare up.

To minimize flares and get through the times they do happen, regularly follow the treatment plan your healthcare provider recommends.

Treatments may include taking oral or topical prescriptions or even washing with a prescribed antiseptic. Although these treatments aren’t a cure, they can slow condition’s progression and help prevent infections or complications.

If you notice that your HS flares happen before Aunt Flo visits, talk with your doctor about whether you might benefit from taking hormonal contraceptives or other hormone modulating medications.

In general, keep HS-affected skin clean, dry, and protected from irritation whenever possible. Skip shaving and waxing. Wear breathable fabrics that will help pull moisture away from your skin and curb any dreaded chafing. Lightweight, seamless undies can be a big help for offering friction-free movement.

Avoid smoking, or ask your doctor about a way to kick the habit. Maintaining a healthy weight may also help prevent flares and slow the condition’s progression.

Although there isn’t a specific diet for people with HS to follow, some small studies show that experimenting with your diet may help, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. Some options include following the Mediterranean or an anti-inflammatory diet. In one small 2013 study, HS patients saw improvement with eliminating brewer’s yeast. But more research is needed to confirm this.

If you suspect that certain foods cause you to experience flares, it may be worth talking with your doctor about this.

If you think you have HS and haven’t been diagnosed, you should call a dermatologist and ask about your symptoms. HS, especially in its early stages, can often be confused with acne, boils, or ingrown hairs. Early diagnosis is important so you can get proper treatment and slow the progression.

You should also schedule an appointment with your healthcare professional if your symptoms are worsening. Call your doctor right away if you develop a fever as a result of HS.

The exact cause of HS isn’t known yet, but it’s suspected to be a combo of genetics and environmental factors.

If you have HS, you can reduce flares by regularly following your treatment plan and doing your best to keep yourself healthy. If you’re not sure whether you have HS, talk with a dermatologist about your symptoms. Early treatment can help slow disease progression and prevent complications.