After delving into the pathology of the disease, researchers found that hair follicles -- not sweat glands -- cause the inflammation and pus drainage associated with hidradenitis suppurativa. In this process, hair follicles become clogged and rupture, wreaking havoc on surrounding skin structures and making the area vulnerable to infection.
On a larger scale, though, the underlying cause and cure for HS have yet to be found. Some scientists believe they're close to pinpointing a genetic mutation possibly responsible for HS, but lack evidence to link the disease to a particular gene [source: Genetics Home Reference].
So far, certain genetic and hormonal factors appear to influence HS. One estimate states that one of every three patients with the skin disease also has a family history of the disease [source: Hidradenitis Suppurativa Foundation]. HS most likely has a genetic component -- but as mentioned before, tracking its cause has proven to be a difficult task. The relationship between HS and hormones is even less obvious. For women, HS can flare up before menstruation and after pregnancy, but it may settle throughout pregnancy and after menopause. Researchers acknowledge that hormones affect the severity of the disease, but no one's certain about whether they actually cause HS.
Still, multiple discoveries have increased treatment options for patients with the disease. For starters, establishing that HS is not caused by poor hygiene helps people empathize with others living with the disease. This can be especially important for people who may feel like others fail to notice, because symptomatic areas are often concealed by clothes [source: Hidradenitis Suppurativa Foundation]. Similarly, myths that hold deodorant, shaving, chemical hair removal and wearing tight clothing responsible for HS have been put to rest, too.
Smoking and obesity have not been proven to cause HS, but they definitely worsen symptoms and the progression of the disease. The scientific community is unsure of exactly how smoking influences HS, but they do know that obesity and hirsuitism (the abundant growth of facial or body hair in women) are somehow associated with the disease.
Do effective treatment options exist for patients with hidradenitis suppurativa? Head over to the next page to find out.