Abscesses, Boils, Lesions, OH MY!

Updated: 6 days ago

What do I call these...things?

Recommended: Boil like, lesions, abscesses

Not recommended: Cysts

Why does it matter?

When you're telling others about your illness it is important to get the facts straight. Putting cysts in the same category as hidradenitis is downplaying a horrible and potentially debilitating disease that we all live with and suffer from. Correct terminology will also help ensure you get a proper diagnosis.

What are the differences?

Lesions or Abscesses:

Abscesses are typically larger raised areas on the skin that are more tender and filled with pus in the deeper tissue. HS is a life changing chronic inflammatory illness that affects people emotionally, mentally, and physically. Hidradenitis can be progressive, with several different affected areas, anywhere from 3 to 50 plus abscesses at a time on your body, and can deform the areas affected with serious tunneling, tracts and scarring. For many of us there are years of constant pain, oozing, and putrid odor; cysts do not behave this way.


Even though HS sufferers are prone to cysts, which can become inflamed or infected and can potentially turn into an abscesses from infection; it is important to understand that a cyst is not the same thing as HS. HS is a condition, an illness, an actual disease.

Every other spot: It is not uncommon for us to look to HS as being the reason for any other skin spot, irritation or other symptom. Not everything is related to our HS, which is important to keep in mind.

Below is a list of the most common skin cysts. If you are not sure what these are, take some time and look these up as well as the different pictures. All diagnoses should come from a dermatologist or trained professional; this is information to help you be more informed, not to self diagnose.

Epidermoid cyst

Sebaceous cyst

Bartholin's cyst

Ganglion cyst

Pilonidal cyst

Cystic acne

Ingrown hair cyst

Pilar cyst

Mucous cyst

Chalazia cyst

HS can look or present much like acne, folliculitis, a typical boil, or cysts to people who are unfamiliar with this condition.

There is a lot of misdiagnosis happening regarding HS, so if your doctor says that you DO or DO NOT have hidradenitis, and you are not sure (this is common) do your research, and if needed, get a second opinion. Please make sure you’ve done your research and are able to articulate the experiences you have had with your abscesses to ensure a proper diagnosis.

This is an awareness article for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider.

Written by Denise Panter-Fixsen

Edited by Brindley Kons

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