Best Practices for Talking to Your Doctor About HS Symptoms
Last updated: December 2022
Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a chronic skin condition that can present and affect people in many different ways. There is important information that a dermatology provider needs during an office visit in order to give the best care and an effective treatment regimen. You may want to write this down, as it is a lot of information to remember!
Important information to share with your hidradenitis suppurativa doctor
How long have the HS cysts been appearing?
The timeline of HS is important for your doctor to know to provide you with the best treatment options.
Where are the cysts appearing?
What areas of the body are affected? Common areas are the underarms, groin, neck, chest, and abdomen.1
Symptoms of flare-ups
When the cysts appear, are there any symptoms associated with them? Are they painful? Any swelling or draining? These are a few examples of important symptoms to share with your doctor.
How often do the flares occur?
How often are the cysts appearing? Once a month? Three to 4 times a month? The frequency of flares is important to know for the best treatment and also for treatment response. During follow-up visits, the goal is to have less frequent flares and less cysts appearing.
For women, do your flares occur with your menstrual cycle? This is important because there are oral medications such as birth control pills and spironolactone that can help with hormonal flares.1
HS treatments you have tried in the past
What treatments worked and did not work for you? This is great to know so your doctor will not give you a medicine you have already tried.
Treatments you are comfortable with
Are you open to taking oral pills, or a biologic injection like Humira if needed? Are you open to laser treatment options? Do you prefer creams, ointments, or washes? The best medications are the ones that will actually be used!
Other past medical history
Let your doctor know if you have a history of diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBD), autoimmune disease, or other condition. This is important for finding the best treatment options. Oral pills like spironolactone and metformin have been shown to help both HS and other conditions (comorbidities) such as diabetes and PCOS.1
How does hidradenitis suppurativa affect your daily life?
Is HS affecting your mood? Are you unable to wear certain clothing? Mood changes or depression can happen with any chronic skin condition. You deserve a chance to discuss how HS is affecting your daily life. Your doctor can refer you to a mental health professional to discuss any psychological impacts that HS may have.2
Do you smoke?
Smoking is associated with HS. It has been shown to cause flares and decrease treatment efficacy. If needed, your doctor should discuss stopping smoking (cessation) with you and refer you to another provider to help you stop.3
As you can see, there is a lot of information that we dermatology providers need in order to treat HS the best way possible. Having the above information is very helpful in achieving improvements and remission in a timely manner. As with many other chronic skin conditions, open communication between doctor and patient is key for success!
When you need to vent about HS, who do you turn to first?