HS Lingo

There are a lot of words in the HS world. What do they all mean?

  • Abscess – An abscess is a collection of pus in any part of the body. In most cases, the area around an abscess is swollen and inflamed.
  • Boil – A skin abscess that forms at a hair follicle that is filled with pus-forming bacteria. It is important to note that HS is not a bacteria and HS abscesses are not always infected.
  • Cyst – An abnormal closed sac-like structure within tissue containing fluid or semisolid substance. Can occur anywhere in the body and can vary in size.
  • Cytokine – large group of proteins that are secreted by specific cells of immune system. Cytokines includes the interleukins, lymphokines and cell signal molecules, such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and the interferons, which trigger inflammation and respond to infections.
    • Proinflammatory cytokines – immunoregulatory cytokines, or proteins, that promote inflammation. Excessive production contributes to inflammatory diseases, such as Hidradenitis Suppurativa.
  • ESR – Erythrocyte sedimentation rate is a blood test that measures how quickly erythrocytes, or red blood cells, settle at the bottom of a test tube. It can help determine the severity of inflammation in the body.
  • Fistula – A connection between two body parts which can form from an infection or inflammation. HS fistulas occur under the skin as a result of inflammation and drainage.
  • Inflammation– an immune response as a part of the body’s defense mechanism and plays a role in the healing process. Sometimes, the body mistakenly perceives its own cells or tissues as harmful. This reaction can lead to autoimmune diseases and other chronic diseases, like HS.
  • Nodule – is a growth of abnormal tissue. Nodules can develop just below the skin. If filled with liquid, are usually referred to as a cyst.
  • Scarring – A mark remaining after a wound heals. HS scars are usually purplish, gray and/or red.
  • Sinus Tract – When the liquid of HS flares do not drain, they tunnel under the skin. These tunnels or channels are called sinus tracts. This results in dead space with potential for abscess formation. Multiple abscesses can become linked under the skin surface, by a network of interconnected sinus tracts. This means the HS becomes deeper and more widespread.
    • The best way this was explained to me was comparing it to an ear piercing. When you have an ear pierced, you have to wear an earring for 2 months. Your skin recognizes the post as a foreign object and heals around it, leaving a tunnel of empty space. Once it is healed, you can take your earring out and the tunnel stays. Sinus tracts formed from pus or fluid from HS are just like the post of an earring. The skin recognizes the pus and blood as a foreign object. The skin heals around the fluid, leaving behind an empty tunnel.
  • Systemic – Affecting the entire body, rather than a single organ or body part. Systemic inflammation means that inflammation is throughout the entire body, instead of just the skin.
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha (TNF alpha) – An inflammatory cytokine produced during acute inflammation. If macrophages (certain white blood cells) detect an infection, they release TNF to alert other cells of the immune system leading to inflammation. TNF Alpha is a buzzword in the HS word, since it is theorized to cause HS inflammation.
  • Tunneling – Often used as a synonym to sinus tract, tunnels are tracts or channels that connect HS lumps and form under your skin.

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