Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) and herpes simplex virus (HSV) are two skin conditions that share similar symptoms, including inflamed bumps on the groin. HSV outbreaks may also occur anywhere the skin rubs together, such as the armpits.

HSV is a viral infection that can cause periodic outbreaks — typically on the groin, anus, or mouth — or no symptoms at all.

HS is a long-term inflammatory skin condition that causes periodic outbreaks, typically on the groin, armpits, between the thighs, between the buttocks, or any other area where the skin rubs together.

Although neither condition has a cure yet, both are treatable.

Since the conditions may easily be mistaken for each other and even occur concurrently, it’s important to identify their differences. Here’s what else to know about how they manifest.

HS is an inflammatory condition that seems to be related to immune system difficulties and genetics. Factors like obesity or smoking worsen it.

HSV is a viral infection spread through skin-to-skin contact.

It’s also worth noting that herpes in general is much more common. An estimated 1% of people have HS compared to about 13% of adults (ages 15–49) who have genital (type 2) herpes.

Though type 1 or oral herpes is even more common than type 2, it’s unlikely to be mistaken for HS. HS around the mouth is not common.

Can you have HS and HSV at the same time?

Yes, it’s possible to have both HS and HSV at the same time. According to 2018 research, if you have HS you’re more likely to have other conditions that affect the hair follicles, including herpes.

Other common comorbidities of HS include acne, autoimmune conditions, inflammatory bowel disease, anxiety, and depression.

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HS flares include:

  • clusters of medium size, painful abscesses, or bumps under the skin that contain pus
  • “tunneling” under the skin, where tunnel-like cavities develop from the abscesses
  • red, swollen, scarred, or otherwise inflamed skin from recurring outbreaks
  • outbreaks where skin rubs together: on the armpits, groin, anus, inner thighs, under the breasts, or between the buttocks

Though most herpes infections are symptomless and go unnoticed, the outbreaks involve:

  • clusters of small, painful abscesses or bumps under the skin and mucous membranes that contain pus
  • bumps typically located on the mouth, genitals, or anus

Herpes outbreaks are less likely to cause scarring and widespread redness, unless the bumps burst.

These symptoms tend to come back over time.

The exact cause of HS is unknown. But scientists believe it involves an issue with the immune system combined with inflammation around the hair follicles in areas with sweat glands (like the armpits or groin).

Factors that seem to increase your likelihood of HS include:

The herpes simplex virus type 1 (oral) or 2 (genital) causes HSV. Transmission happens through direct contact with affected skin, mucous membranes, or bodily fluids.

Factors that increase the likelihood of contracting herpes include having:

Next steps

If you think you may have HSV or HS, visit a doctor or your nearest clinic. A blood test can detect or rule out a herpes infection. HS tends to be more challenging to diagnose, but methods such as laboratory tests and lifestyle questionnaires can identify it.

Since herpes is contagious, it’s important to visit a doctor before potentially spreading it.

For either condition, your doctor can recommend treatment options, which might include medications, hygiene practices, or lifestyle strategies. If you have HS, surgery may be a recommendation.

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HS and herpes are two different skin conditions that cause similar symptoms, including inflamed bumps in the groin area or between the buttocks.

HS outbreaks also typically occur where skin rubs together, like the armpits or inner thighs.

HS is a long-term inflammatory condition related to immune system difficulties and genetics. A viral infection causes herpes.

Without treatment, either condition may affect your day-to-day quality of life. Since both HS and herpes are treatable, you should contact a doctor if you suspect you may have either condition.