Best Practices for Talking To Your Doctor About HS Symptoms
Hidradenitis suppurativa 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 the office visit in order to give the best care and a treatment regimen that is effective. It would be helpful to have this information written down as it is a lot of information to remember!
Important information for an office visit
How long have the cysts been appearing?
The timeline of HS is important for the provider 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, abdomen, etc.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 know.
How often the flares occur?
How often are the cysts appearing? Once a month? 3-4 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
Treatments that have been tried in the past
What treatments worked and did not work for you? This is great to know so the same medication will not be given.
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 that is important
Let the dermatology provider know if you have a history of diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBD), autoimmune disease, etc. This is important to know for the best treatment options. Oral pills like spironolactone and metformin have been shown to help both HS and other comorbidities such as diabetes and PCOS.1
How does it affect your daily life?
Is HS affecting your mood? Are you unable to wear certain clothing? Mood changes or depression can be seen in any chronic skin condition. Patients deserve a chance to discuss how HS is affecting his or her daily life. Dermatology providers can refer patients 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. Smoking cessation should be discussed with patients and referral to a health care provider to aid in the smoking cessation if needed should be done during the office visit.3
As you can see, there is a lot of information us dermatology providers need in order to treat Hidradenitis 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 the dermatology provider and patient is key for success!
How has your HS affected your relationships with friends and family?