So last week I wrote about how poorly I have felt over the last week to two weeks and I have finally got to the bottom ( no pun intended ) of what has been causing this dip in my health – well I think.
I have several chronic conditions some rare some rarely diagnosed and one of them is a skin condition called Hidradenitis suppurativa . I don’t talk about it a lot mainly because of the embarrassment caused and the judgement you can get from ignorant people. When you say you regularly get abscesses people either assume you are a junkie or your personal hygiene is lacking. I can assure you none of these are true. If you read the link above you will see it is caused or connected to the sweat glands. The weird thing that separates HS abscesses from “normal” abscesses is the fact that when swabs are taken from a HS abscess nothing grows in the petri dish. That is what separates it from standard abscesses which are normally caused by a staph infection.
The problem is that with HS it is very common for you to get a secondary infection like cellulitis. And just because HS doesn’t have any nasty bugs contained within it doesn’t mean the bloody things hurt any less. From Sunday into Monday this week I developed a large abscess which immediately also turned into cellulitis. It was reasonably sore, I have had lots of abscesses in my time and the majority of them have been a lot more painful than this one. HS doesn’t just give you abscesses it makes you feel very poorly when you are in the middle of a flare up. I can run a temperature which is unusual for me, get whole body aches like I am coming down with the flu. I feel very run down and tired. With an abscess brewing this has obviously had a knock on effect with the rest of my conditions and explains completely why the last two weeks have been so difficult. Just by way of explanation its not uncommon for me to have abscesses that I have no knowledge of being there until they rupture. It really just depends where they form and how close they are to nerves and lymph nodes. Sometimes the smallest ones can be the most painful, it really is just the luck of the draw.
I have been quite lucky with my HS it has never really gone further than stage 2, I have never had to be hospitalised with it, I’ve only ever had one lanced at A&E many, many years ago. I have friends who have endured skin grafts in an attempt to stop the disease progression and multiple hospital admissions and operations to drain them. Last year was the closest I got to be admitted to hospital when one the size of a hens egg developed over a few days. I was waiting for my doctors surgery to ring me back as I was going to beg them to lance it, when it ruptured as I sat down on the toilet. The location was my bikini line inner thigh. I sat there for a full 30 minutes whilst this just drained and drained. The relief was instant as this one had prevented me from wearing clothes on my bottom half and from walking. It then continued to drain for the next 7 days and required dressing changes at least 4 times a day. I have never seen anything like it. I really hope I never see anything like it again.
Now all of that may seem pretty disgusting and I would have to agree with you. You have no idea how much courage it has taken to even talk about this horrid condition. For me though it gets worse as I really don’t tolerate the antibiotics used for this condition. I can’t take doxycycline as I can’t keep it down I will projectile vomit within 30 minutes of taking it. I don’t do particularly well on any of the tetracycline’s . I end up having to take Flucloxacillan which a) give me rampant diarrhoea so I end up eating Loperimide (imodium) like sweets to stop it. I think its because they contain a hefty wack of lactose which I don’t tolerate and b) I can end up having an allergic reaction to it – facial rash. So it’s not even plain sailing when I do get the antibiotics. So on top of feeling crap from the abscess I have the side effects from the course of antibiotics to contend with. Oh and I forgot to mention the non stop nausea I can get with these as well and the burnt oesophagus where they get stuck in my throat due to swallowing issues caused by EDS.
I have had over 24 hours on the antibiotics now and the cellulitis has subsided. The abscess is still there, blind so will need some attention to draw it out. I have problems at the moment though as my skin has become very fragile and any adhesive dressings are removing a layer of skin with them. Making it too painful to apply my usual cure a dab of Vicks vapour rub and a mepore dressing. I am having to rely on heat alone.
The whole point of the post is to raise awareness of this condition. Since I was diagnosed in 2011 I have helped around a further 5 people get diagnosed and those people in turn have helped others get diagnosed. I was lucky that I switched surgeries and my new gp was on the ball. For the 12 years prior to that I had been fobbed off with antibiotics and no real help. I was made to feel ashamed and that it was something I was doing or not doing that was causing these flare ups.
HS can occur pretty much anywhere on the body that has sweat glands. So if you are having continual flare ups of abscesses under your breasts, in your groin or armpits or on your bottom, anywhere don’t suffer in silence. Arm yourself with some information and ask your gp if they have heard of Hidradenitis Suppurativa. Being diagnosed won’t cure you, there is no cure but it may get you better treatment. When I have a flare up I just have to ring my doctors surgery and ask for antibiotics. I could push to see a dermatologist but I will admit I am too embarrassed and as I can manage most of the time myself, I just get on with it.