Health

It took me over 10 years to diagnose the painful lumps on my skin. Here’s what I wish more people knew about it and how I treat my symptoms.

It took me over 10 years to diagnose the painful lumps on my skin. Here’s what I wish more people knew about it and how I treat my symptoms.

Alli Guerra hiking

Courtesy of Alli Guerra

  • For over 10 years I lived with painful knots around my inner thighs, groin and buttocks.

  • After finally going to a dermatologist, I was diagnosed with hidradenitis suppurativa.

  • There is no cure for this chronic inflammatory skin condition, but treatments can reduce symptoms and pain.

I always called them “my bumps”. At age 13, these painful nodules started dotting the skin around my inner thighs, groin, and butt. Trust me when I say there is nothing more humiliating than needing your mom’s help to apply acne cream those areas.

A few years later, “my lumps” disappeared. I was 19 and naively thought that the transition from adolescence to adulthood had set me free. When they came back with a vengeance at 22, I felt completely defeated.

Your twenties are supposed to be carefree, but these nasty bumps made me feel dirty and disgusting. Mine self-esteem soared. The simple act of walking could be painful if my thighs rub the wrong way or, worse, cause an abscess to burst in public. Physical intimacy was terrifying for me. I never wanted anyone to see the bumps.

When I finally worked up the courage to overcome my deep shame and talk to a close friend about it, she suggested I see a dermatologist. That visit led to a life-changing diagnosis and treatment plan that helped restore my confidence.

The diagnosis and treatments restored my confidence

The dermatologist examined me briefly before concluding, “Your symptoms suggest that hidradenitis suppurativa.” She said it matter-of-factly, the jumble of syllables rolling off her tongue so easily, adding “or HS for short.”

That abbreviation sounded like a sexually transmitted disease to me, but I was quickly convinced that, no, it’s a chronic inflammatory skin condition. Although the exact cause is unknown, it is estimated to affect 1 to 4% of the US populationwith women are three times larger than men have it. It is not an indication of poor hygiene, nor is it contagious, and it can disappear and reappear during your lifetime. It is an often misdiagnosed conditionand because of the uncomfortable areas in which it can pop up, HS often goes undiagnosed.

I was stunned. What I struggled with for over 10 years was identified in 10 seconds.

“There’s no cure,” she said, leaving me disheartened until she added, “but there’s a lot we can do to help manage the pain.”

I was given a topical corticosteroid injection — pun intended — the treatment I now seek for the debilitating attacks. I was told to start using Hibiclens, an antiseptic skin cleanser, two to three times a week on the affected areas, along with a daily topical antibiotic, clindamycin.

In addition to medical treatments, I changed my lifestyle. When I exercise, I wear sweat-wicking materials that reduce skin friction. Low impact exercises tend to be friendlier to my HS. If I’m doing cardio, I take a quick shower, or if I can’t, I bring a change of clean, dry clothes to reduce the amount of time sweat sits on my flare-ups.

The American Academy of Dermatology says research suggests weight loss and dietary changes help reduce HS symptoms, but I’ve lost and gained weight and played around with my diet without seeing much difference in how my HS presents. But each and every body is different. So far, I’ve learned what works for me, and if anything changes, I know my dermatology team can help. I’m not alone anymore.

I am happier, healthier

Until there is a cure, I know I will have to live with my HS. But now that I know what this condition is and how to treat it, I can finally live my life without shame. Since I’ve been treated, I’ve been able to stop it more painful stages of HSwhich makes the occasional bad bout feel less tragic.

I now talk more freely about my HS with friends and family because I don’t want anyone else to feel the way I did for so many years. Getting the diagnosis and treatment plan made a world of difference in my life, as did having a supportive partner who loves me and “my bumps”.

Read the original article at Insider



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