If you have hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), you may have experienced the condition’s characteristic painful boil-like lumps. They can create a mini mountain range underneath your skin in some of our most sensitive or friction-prone areas.
HS bumps usually show up in sweaty spots, where we tend to chafe, and places on your body where skin contacts skin. Your inner thighs, underarms, your butt, and under your breasts are all prime real estate for these nodules.
But as much as HS lumps look like ordinary skin boils, they’re two very different beasts. Let’s take a closer look at those pesky HS bumps and the best ways to deal with them.
HS bumps can look like boils. According to a research review, HS is often misdiagnosed as other skin conditions, especially recurrent boils.
But there’s more to the story. Unlike a regular boil, HS isn’t just a hair follicle that carries an infection.
A regular boil forms when bacteria cause a follicle to develop an infection. An infection then makes the follicle swell and sometimes fill with pus.
Scientists are still trying to figure out the deal behind HS nodules, but a research review says that they may be a symptom of an underlying inflammatory condition.
A big difference between HS boils and regular boils is that HS lumps are sometimes connected via tunnels, or what are called sinus tracts, according to the National Health Service. Think of them like a subway system beneath your skin.
These bumps and tracts can then leak pus or even burst and cause more discomfort and a secondary infection. Both bumps and tracts can also cause scar tissue, which thickens your skin and can make movement difficult or painful.
A regular skin boil usually isn’t a big deal for most people and it often doesn’t require medical treatment.
But HS is an ongoing inflammatory skin condition that can lead to health complications, according to a research review. That’s why it’s a good idea to work with a healthcare professional to manage the condition, in addition to the treatments you can do at home.
It can feel downright irresistible to pop those HS bumps. But prodding, poking, popping, or damaging an HS nodule is a recipe for disaster.
Remember, an HS bump is just the tip of the iceberg for the condition. Lancing or pinching one or causing it to burst can spread bacteria underneath your skin and into your sinus tracts, where infections can be hard to treat.
And burst bumps and the tunnels that carry the infection can lead to skin abscesses with serious complications, so resist the temptation to pop ‘em.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, any procedures for HS should be done by a qualified medical professional, such as a dermatologist — not at home in front of your bathroom mirror.
If you have a boil from HS, there are a few things you can do at home to get relief.
Wear clothing that prevents chafing to create a friction barrier and avoid aggravating your skin even further (moisture-wicking fabrics are a dream for this!). And since shaving areas with HS bumps can lead to more skin injury, give the razor a break for a little while.
Apply a comfortably warm compress to your skin or take a hot bath. The warmth can naturally open a follicle and drain fluid. Keep the area clean by using antibacterial soaps or an acne wash or topical cream to help fight infection.
One study showed that apple cider vinegar (ACV) has antimicrobial properties. Diluted ACV may help keep bacteria at bay and eliminate odor from infections. (Is there anything ACV can’t do?)
To dilute, try a tablespoon of ACV with a cup of water. Apply a small amount to a cotton ball or clean washcloth and dab gently on the boil after cleansing.
If you have an open wound, you might want to skip this home remedy. It can further irritate the wound and cause stinging.
Even though HS bumps look a lot like boils, they’re different in that they come from an inflammatory skin condition — not a hair follicle that carries an infection.
The bumps can develop subway-like tracts underneath your skin and are prone to infection. That’s why caring for an HS nodule is more complicated than treating a regular boil.
Whatever you do, don’t try to pop an HS bump (tempting as it may be!), or you could put yourself at risk of complications and even worse irritation.
Instead, connect with your healthcare professional to explore ways to manage bump breakouts. Specialized washes, topical products, and even apple cider vinegar can offer major relief from these annoying nodules.