Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), sometimes called acne inversa, is a chronic inflammatory condition that results in painful, fluid-filled lesions developing around parts of the body where skin touches skin. Although the exact cause of HS is unknown, some potential risk factors can contribute to HS breakouts.
If you’re one of the thousands of Americans currently living with HS, the following triggers may be making your symptoms worse.
Your diet could be playing a role in your HS flare-ups. HS is thought to be influenced in part by hormones. Foods containing dairy and sugar can raise your insulin levels and cause your body to overproduce certain hormones called androgens, potentially making your HS worse.
Research also indicates that brewer’s yeast, a common ingredient in items like bread, beer, and pizza dough, can cause severe reactions in some people with HS.
By limiting the dairy products, sugary snacks, and brewer’s yeast that you consume, you may be able to prevent new HS lesions from forming and manage your symptoms more effectively.
Studies have shown that people who are obese have a higher chance of developing HS and tend to experience more severe symptoms. Since HS breakouts form on areas of the body where skin touches skin, the friction and the added potential for bacterial growth created by excess skin folds can increase the likelihood of HS flare-ups.
If you feel like your weight may be contributing to your symptoms, it might be time to talk to your doctor about weight loss. Getting regular exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet are two of the most effective ways to lose weight, which can in turn help to reduce body-friction and decrease some of the hormonal activity that might trigger breakouts.
For the best weight-loss results, talk to your doctor about designing a daily exercise regimen and a nutritious meal plan.
The weather could also be affecting the severity of your HS symptoms. Some people experience breakouts when exposed to hot, humid climates. If you find you’re often feeling sweaty and uncomfortable, try to manage the temperature in your living space with an air conditioner or a fan. Also, keep your skin dry by dabbing away sweat with a soft towel.
Certain deodorants and antiperspirants have been known to irritate underarm areas prone to HS breakouts. Choose brands that use natural antibacterial ingredients like baking soda and are gentle on sensitive skin.
If you’re a smoker, you’re likely aware that using tobacco products is hazardous to your health. They could also be making your HS worse. According to a 2014 study, smoking is linked to both an increased prevalence of HS and more severe HS symptoms.
Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but there are many resources available to help you make the change, including support groups, prescription medications, and smartphone apps. Talk to your doctor about strategies for quitting smoking.
It’s possible that your wardrobe may also be exacerbating your symptoms. The friction caused by wearing tight-fitting, synthetic clothing can sometimes irritate the parts of your body where HS lesions typically form.
Stick with loose, breathable fabrics when you’re experiencing a flare-up. Avoid bras that contain an underwire and underwear made with tight elastics, as well.
Another trigger for your HS could be your stress levels. If you often feel stressed out or anxious, it’s possible it might be aggravating your condition.
It’s a good idea to learn a few basic stress-reduction techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation to help keep you calm when you’re feeling tense. Many of these exercises only take a few moments and can be performed almost anywhere.
Although the lifestyle changes suggested above won’t cure your HS, they may help minimize your symptoms and reduce some of the discomfort that comes along with a breakout.
If you feel like you’ve tried everything and your HS still hasn’t improved, talk to your doctor about whether there are other options like prescription treatments or surgery that might be right for you.