Thousands are too embarrassed about boils to seek help


Can you imagine an incurable disease that makes even everyday tasks, such as standing or sitting, agony? That seems to strike at random and, without warning, causing boils that can swell from the size of a pea to the size of a grapefruit overnight?

A disease that, once it takes hold, spreads under the skin until entire areas of the body are covered with abscesses and scars?

It might sound like some medieval affliction, but hidradenitis suppurativa, or HS, affects an estimated 1 to 2 per cent of the population – that’s as many as 1.3 million people, with three times as many women affected as men.

Yet despite it being almost as common as psoriasis, HS is a condition few know about. As Dr Anton Alexandroff, of the British Association of Dermatologists, says: ‘That’s partly because people don’t seek help for it, because though it’s painful, they find it embarrassing.’

Their embarrassment is understandable: HS is characterised by recurrent boils in areas where the skin naturally folds, such as under the breast, around the groin, in the armpit and in the back passage.

‘Because it is under-recognised by patients and doctors, there are very few studies into HS,’ says Dr Alexandroff.

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