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  • Denise Fixsen

HS Abscesses vs. Boils

Oftentimes in the HS community the words abscesses and boils are used interchangeably, however, they do not mean the same thing. It may not seem important to use the correct verbiage, however, it can have an impact on obtaining a diagnosis and being knowledgeable on your condition.

Boils are typically short lived (not chronic) while HS presents as chronic and recurring abscesses/lesions that can lead to scar tissue, disfigurement, tunneling and continuous drainage. Hidradenitis is a chronic inflammatory follicular occlusion and much more involved than a typical boil.

A boil is something anyone can get and is typically not recurring, which is vastly different from HS. In many cases boils are more surface and superficial than an abscess, and are often caused by a type of bacterium such as staphylococcus aureus which is commonly found on the skin and inside the nose. The germs that cause boils may spread through skin-to-skin contact and contaminated objects; this is not the case with HS.

HS is not an infectious disease. In many cases, if our abscesses were to be cultured, they would come back showing no harmful bacteria.

Unfortunately in the HS community these terms are thought to be interchangeable and mean the same thing, but that is not the case.

Why does it matter?

  • Proper diagnosis

  • Chronic abscesses are indicative of HS, chronic boils are not HS and could potentially lead to an incorrect or prolonged diagnosis

  • Proper Treatment

  • HS abscesses are treated differently than boils and your treatment plan may not be directed toward HS if your doctor thinks that you have recurring boils as opposed to abscesses

Please see our article regarding HS verbiage and terms Boils, Abscesses and Lesions, OH MY! here.

Our article "Does Size Matter with HS Abscesses?" can be found here.


Content in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking treatment because of something you have read on this website.

Written by Denise Panter-Fixsen

Edited by Brindley Kons


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