Hidradenitis suppurativa itself is NOT fatal. Below you will find some of the complications that can arise with HS and tips on how to combat them.
HS has been associated with infections that have led to life-threatening and fatal occurrences which include sepsis. Sepsis is caused by the body’s defense or immune system working overtime to fight infection.
If someone were to go into septic shock from untreated sepsis or if you were to develop sepsis from cellulitis and were antibiotic-resistant, the septic shock could be fatal. Read more about cellulitis here. Sepsis and shock are not common events leading to fatalities with HS. Read more about sepsis here.
What Can I Do?
Be sure you do not become antibiotic resistant by allowing providers to prescribe antibiotics long-term or as a “precaution”. If you develop antibiotic resistance serious infections cannot be controlled even with the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics.
This is very rare; to date there are only 3 reported fatalities from Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SSC) and HS. In the history of cases of HS and SSC, 85 cases were reported in total. In the fatality cases all cases were from long-standing (20+ years) of poorly controlled Hurley stage 3 HS.
The transformation from HS to SCC is not well understood, but may be explained by chronic irritation and infection, which leads to proliferative epidermal changes and increased rate of spontaneous mutations.
Hidradenitis suffers are at a higher risk for skin cancer overall, which is why tanning beds are not recommended for this disease.
A brief history on Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Approximately 2.2 million people have SCC at any given time making up about 20% of all skin cancer cases. According to one study 12% of males and 7% of females develop SCC at some point in time. Prognosis is generally good, however, if it spreads and is untreated it becomes a far more dangerous condition resulting in about 51,900 deaths globally per year.
What can I do?
Wear sunscreen and avoid tanning beds. For those who have had hidradenitis with a lot of scar tissue and tunneling in the same area, it would be recommended to have periodic SCC tests done in that area by your dermatologist.
Comorbid Autoimmune Disorders and Inability to Treat
In some scenarios, which can be uncommon but do occur, HS can be severe enough that biologics and immune suppressants can be life threatening. What this means is that for some HS can keep you from getting treatments that you need for other illnesses that may require biologics and or immune suppressants. In some cases, because HS covers so much of the body, they are not able to suppress the immune system in order to treat the other autoimmune illnesses. In this case, the decision with the physician was to aggressively attack HS via surgery in an attempt to get it under control. There are also some cancer patients who are unable to receive their chemo do to the same scenario. This will not happen for many, but it is a very real complication.
Read more about cellulitis here.
Read more about sepsis 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