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Employment Challenges with HS

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: December 2020

The symptoms, pain, and wounds of hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) have a far-reaching impact. Not only do they affect physical, mental, and emotional well-being, these symptoms can often present challenges in your career. Understanding how to navigate your job while managing your HS can help improve your quality of life.

Regardless of the type of work you do, working while in pain is difficult. At times, this may be impossible. You do not have to have a physically demanding job for this to be difficult.

Missing work due to symptoms or appointments

You are bound to have good and bad days when it comes to your HS symptoms. You are likely used to dealing with at least mild discomfort while at work. However, you may need additional time off due to your symptoms or for an appointment with your doctor.

If you are a full-time or part-time employee, you likely have paid time off benefits. These time-off hours accrue the more hours you work. You may need to use this benefit if you need time off for appointments or due to pain.

If you are not a regular employee for a company and work for yourself, as a contractor, or on an as-needed basis, you likely do not have paid time off benefits. This issue can be challenging when you need to take time for appointments or because of your symptoms.

Stigma of HS

The burden of disease from HS is worsened greatly by the social stigma that often occurs. HS is frequently seen as a contagious disease or one that is caused by poor hygiene. Neither of these are correct.

Anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders are more common in those with HS. Much of this is because of the social stigma related to HS. Experiencing stigma in the workplace leads to dissatisfaction, missed work days, an overall impact on wage and wealth.1

Studies have shown that those with visible symptoms of HS experience worry, stress, and anxiety over the disease. Even those that have HS wounds that are hidden by clothing may experience mental distress due to the often unpleasant smell of the wounds. This fear and anxiety worsen the social isolation of HS, and they may make it difficult to go to work.1

Tips for facing employment challenges

There are some ways in which you can face these employment challenges head-on. Here are a few to consider:

  • Be honest and upfront with your employer. This may be scary and difficult at first. Remember, you are a valued employee, and your boss and co-workers will most likely support you. Let your work know about your HS in a matter-of-fact way. Tell only the details you feel comfortable to tell at the time.
  • Educate others about HS. Relationships at work are valuable and are often the ones that you enjoy. Speak to those who you trust about your HS and educate them about your disease. Stigma often occurs due to a lack of knowledge about the disease. If you can provide your friends at work with knowledge about HS, this often decreases the stigma of HS.
  • Talk to your doctor about your employment. Your doctor will want to know about the challenges you are facing with your work. He or she may have a simple solution for you to do your job better. Keeping open communication with your doctor about the challenges in your life due to HS is important.

HS presents many challenges, including those at work. Understanding these challenges and ways to manage them will help you begin or continue a long and successful employment history.

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