What happens if you don’t treat Hidradenitis Suppurativa?

microscopic image of hidradenitis suppurativa

Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) is a debilitating condition caused by the inflammation of hair follicles and sweat glands. The exact cause of HS is not well understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors. HS typically manifests after puberty and is more common in women than men. The condition is often associated with other health issues, including metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and Crohn’s disease.

Left untreated, HS can lead to severe complications that significantly impact quality of life. This article explores the potential consequences of not treating hidradenitis suppurativa and highlights the importance of early intervention.

Hidradenitis Suppurativa Complications

If left untreated, hidradenitis suppurativa can lead to numerous complications, some of which can be life-threatening. The most common complications include:

  • Chronic Pain and Discomfort: One of the primary symptoms of HS is severe pain. The abscesses and nodules can cause chronic pain, which can become more intense and persistent over time if not managed. This ongoing pain can significantly reduce a person’s quality of life and ability to perform daily activities.
  • Scarring and Skin Changes: Untreated HS often results in extensive scarring. The repeated inflammation and infection lead to the formation of fibrotic tissue, causing thickened, rope-like scars. These scars can restrict movement, especially if they occur in the armpits or groin.
  • Sinus Tracts and Tunnels: HS can cause the formation of sinus tracts or tunnels under the skin, connecting abscesses. These tunnels can become chronically infected, leading to persistent drainage and foul odor. This can be particularly distressing and socially isolating for patients.
  • Infections: The constant presence of open sores and abscesses increases the risk of bacterial infections. In severe cases, these infections can spread to deeper tissues and the bloodstream, potentially leading to sepsis, a life-threatening condition.
  • Restricted Mobility: Severe HS, particularly in areas like the armpits and groin, can restrict movement due to pain and scarring. This can make it difficult for patients to engage in physical activities, further impacting their overall health and well-being.
  • Mental Health Issues: Living with untreated HS can take a significant toll on mental health. The chronic pain, disfigurement, and social isolation associated with the condition can lead to depression, anxiety, and a diminished quality of life. Studies have shown that individuals with HS are at an increased risk of experiencing psychiatric disorders.

Can Hidradenitis Suppurativa Kill You?

While HS itself is not directly fatal, the complications arising from untreated HS can be life-threatening. Severe infections, such as cellulitis or sepsis, can develop from the chronic abscesses and tunnels associated with HS. Sepsis is a medical emergency that requires immediate intervention, as it can rapidly lead to organ failure and death.

In addition to the risk of severe infections, untreated HS is associated with an increased risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer. Although this is a rare complication, it underscores the importance of monitoring and managing HS lesions effectively.

The Importance of Early Treatment

Early diagnosis and treatment of HS are crucial in preventing complications and improving outcomes. A comprehensive treatment plan for HS typically involves a combination of medical, surgical, and lifestyle interventions. Common treatments include:

  • Topical and Oral Antibiotics: These can help reduce bacterial infection and inflammation.
  • Biologic Medications: Drugs like adalimumab (Humira) are used to target specific inflammatory pathways and can significantly reduce symptoms.
  • Surgical Interventions: Procedures such as incision and drainage, deroofing, and excision can be effective in managing severe HS lesions.
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Weight management, smoking cessation, and adopting a healthy diet can help reduce HS flares and improve overall health.


Hidradenitis suppurativa is a chronic condition that can lead to severe complications if left untreated. From chronic pain and scarring to life-threatening infections, the potential consequences highlight the importance of early intervention and ongoing management.

By seeking prompt medical attention and adhering to a comprehensive treatment plan, individuals with HS can significantly improve their quality of life and reduce the risk of serious complications. While HS is not directly fatal, the complications associated with untreated HS underscore the critical need for effective treatment and management.

Contact us at 310-94330 to schedule a consultation with one of our hidradenitis experts.

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