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Consider quality of life, comorbidities in hidradenitis suppurativa



The delay in the diagnosis of hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) often ranges from 7 to 10 years, which results in increased morbidity and disease severity, and an extended impact on quality of life, Robert G. Micheletti, MD, said in a presentation at MedscapeLive’s annual Las Vegas Dermatology Seminar.

Robert G. Micheletti, MD, department of dermatology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Dr. Robert G. Micheletti

For patients with HS, “the quality-of-life impact is profound, greater than any other systematically studied dermatologic condition,” said Dr. Micheletti, associate professor of dermatology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylavnia, and chief of hospital dermatology, and chief of dermatology at Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia.

Two key aspects of quality of life that affect HS patients are sexual health and overall pain, he said. The female-to-male ratio of HS is approximately 3:1, and data show that approximately 40% of female HS patients experience fertility issues and have unaddressed questions about HS and pregnancy, said Dr. Micheletti. Additionally, data from a systematic review showed that 50%-60% of patients with HS reported sexual dysfunction. Impaired sexual function is also associated with both overall impaired quality of life ratings and the presence of mood disorders, he noted.

Hidradenitis suppurativa lesions Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Hidradenitis suppurativa lesions

Pain also has a significant impact on quality of life for HS patients. When these patients present in an emergency department, 70% report severe pain, and approximately 60% receive opioids, said Dr. Micheletti.

Data from a 2021 study showed that HS patients are significantly more likely to receive opioids compared with controls, and also more likely to be diagnosed with opioid use disorder than controls, especially if they are seen by nondermatologists, he noted.

For acute pain, Dr. Micheletti recommended starting with acetaminophen 500 mg every 4 to 6 hours as needed, and topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). “It still makes sense to do topical care,” said Dr. Micheletti, but he added that he also prescribes medications for anxiety for these patients.

Patients with increased pain severity or refractory disease may benefit from systemic NSAIDs, or intralesional triamcinolone, he noted. Incision and draining of abscesses may provide temporary symptomatic relief, but keep in mind that lesions will recur, he noted.

For the most severe cases, Dr. Micheletti advised adding tramadol as a first-line opioid, or another short-acting opioid for breakthrough pain.

To manage patients with HS who have chronic pain, Dr. Micheletti recommended starting with HS disease–directed therapy, but also screening for pain severity and psychological comorbidities.

His strategies in these cases include nonpharmacological pain management in the form of physical therapy, wound care, and behavioral health. His algorithm for nociceptive pain is NSAIDs with or without acetaminophen; duloxetine or nortriptyline are other options. For neuropathic pain, gabapentin and/or duloxetine are top choices, but pregabalin, venlafaxine, and nortriptyline are on the list as well.

Topical NSAIDs or topical lidocaine may serve as add-ons to systemic therapy in more severe cases, or as first-line therapy for milder chronic pain, Dr. Micheletti noted. Patients who have failed treatment with at least two pharmacologic agents, suffer medically refractory HS with debilitating pain, or use opioids on an ongoing basis should be referred to a pain management specialist, he said.


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