The patient is a 34-year-old African American male who gives a 10-year history of painful cysts affecting his axillae, groin and upper thighs. He is moderately obese and smokes cigarettes. Prior therapies have included topical and oral antibiotics, a six-month course of isotretinoin, and incision and drainage of acute lesions. Examination of the affected areas reveal tender abscesses several of which express pus on palpation. Also noted are scars from prior surgeries and sinus tracks.
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Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a chronic, recurrent inflammatory disorder that affects apocrine gland bearing skin such as that found in the axillae and groin. The condition is characterized by painful purulent abscesses which frequently lead to sinus tracts and variable degrees of scarring. HS typically arises after puberty and during the second and third decades. The underlying pathogenesis is uncertain although follicular occlusion appears to be the inciting event (1). Contributing factors include obesity and cigarette smoking (2).
Treatment of HS is challenging. Recommended lifestyle modifications include the wearing of loose-fitting clothing, weight loss for obese patients, and smoking cessation. Topical and oral antibiotics are considered first line therapies (3) and the combination of clindamycin and rifampin is a well-established regimen (4). Isotretinoin may induce remission in less severe cases but results overall are disappointing (5). Surgical options include incision and drainage, deroofing and marsupialization, full excision, and laser ablation although most are associated with high recurrence rates (6,7).
Biologics including adalimumab, infliximab and ustekinumab have demonstrated efficacy as therapy.(8) and an in situ study with adalimumab revealed inhibition of inflammatory cytokines in HS skin (9). In 2015 the FDA approved adalimumab for the treatment of moderate to severe HS.
1. Boer, J. and Weltevreden, E.F. Hidradenitis suppurativa or acne inversa. A clinicopathological study of early lesions. Br J Dermatol. 1996; 135: 721-725
2. Alikhan, A., Lynch, P.J., and Eisen, D.B. Hidradenitis suppurativa: a comprehensive review. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2009; 60: 539-561
3. Lee, R.A., Yoon, A., and Kist, J. Hidradenitis suppurativa: an update. Adv Dermatol.2007; 23: 289-306
4. Lamb, R and Desai, N. Clindamycin and rifampicin dosing in hidradenitis suppurativa. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2015; 72: Supplement 1, Page AB42.
5. Boer, J. and van Gemert, M.J. Long-term results of isotretinoin in the treatment of 68 patients with hidradenitis suppurativa. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1999; 40: 73-76
6. Mehdizadeh, A, Hazen P.G. et al. Recurrence of hidradenitis suppurativa after surgical management: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2015; 73: S70-S77
8) Lee, R.A. and Eisen, D.B. Treatment of hidradenitis suppurativa with biologic medications. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2015; 73: Suppl 1, pp. S82 – S88.
9) van der Zee HH, Laman JD, de Ruiter L, Dik WA, Prens EP. Adalimumab (antitumour necrosis factor-α) treatment of hidradenitis suppurativa ameliorates skin inflammation: an in situ and ex vivo study. Br J Dermatol. 2012;166(2):298-305
Stephen Schleicher, MD is an associate professor of medicine at the Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and an adjunct assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He directs the DermDox Center for Dermatology (www.dermdox.org) in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.
No conflicts of interest.