How to Treat Blocked Hair Follicles

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on October 19, 2019

The sooner you get treatment for blocked hair follicles behind your hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), the faster you can clear your skin of the painful, pimple-like bumps it causes. There’s no cure for the condition, but if you spot the symptoms of it and see a doctor ASAP, you can stop it from getting worse.


You'll need to see a doctor to find out if you have this rare condition or if it’s something else. They’ll ask about your symptoms and look at the bumps on your skin.

If there’s any fluid leaking from them, they might take a sample of it and get it tested to see if you have an infection.


The treatment your doctor recommends depends on:

  • How severe your HS is
  • How many bumps you have
  • Where they are on your body

You might need to try a few options before you find one that works for you.


A few types of meds can treat blocked sweat glands.


If you have an infection, antibiotics can treat it and prevent new breakouts. You take them by mouth or rub them on your skin. You may need to keep taking them for a few months until your skin clears.

Why Diagnosis Is HardIt's important to treat hidradenitis suppurativa early, but some symptoms mimic other diseases. Here’s what to look out for.105

ROOPAL BHATT: With hidradenitis,

we now consider it to be

a disease of the hair follicles.

So just like any other disease

process, an ounce of prevention

is always worth a pound of cure.

So HS typically appears on body


Underarms are probably

the number one area.

They can also occur on groin

folds as well, sometimes

the upper inner thighs,

between the buttocks area,

underneath the breasts

in women as well,

sometimes in the back

of the neck.

Severe cases, you can get it

on the genital area.

The fact is that there are

a few things that can mimic HS.

Many times patients do confuse

their symptoms

for another disease.

And it is almost

like a bad acne, something

called a blackhead

or a comedone.

One thing that can mimic

early hidradenitis is something

called boils.

Because hidradenitis affects

the younger population,

they may not, of course,

have the medical awareness

to know that hey,

this can represent something

more than just a cyst or a boil

or something that's going to go


There is definitely

a psychosocial element

of hidradenitis as well.

They feel embarrassed.

Or they just feel that maybe

they'll be judged, because they

will assume that other people

think that this is either

a contagious disorder

or something that they caused

because of poor hygiene.

And of course, that's not

the case at all.

Most people can't necessarily


But I think people now are

becoming a lot more cognizant

of their bodies and their skin,

and they're able to go

to the physician to get

that diagnosis.

Whenever the skin is telling

you, hey, look at me,

this is not normal,

we do recommend for patients

to seek their dermatologist

or their primary care physician

to kind of get that process

started being treated.

Roopal Bhatt, MD, dermatologist<br>U.S. Dermatology Partners, Austin, TX/delivery/53/ea/53eacbb9-5b69-4ac5-b1e7-ba63cca56192/vd-1123-diagnosing-hs_,1000k,750k,4500k,2500k,400k,.mp412/01/2017 12:00:00650350doctor examining man/webmd/consumer_assets/site_images/article_thumbnails/video/why_diagnosis_is_hard_hs_video/650x350_why_diagnosis_is_hard_hs_video.jpg091e9c5e81888d79

An antiseptic wash flushes bacteria off your skin to prevent an infection.

Hormone medicines -- such as birth control pills and other types of drugs that lower androgen (male hormone) levels -- may help women who get symptoms before their periods. But further study is needed, and pregnant women shouldn’t get hormone therapy, due to the chance of side effects.

Retinoids are a form of vitamin A that some people use to treat acne. If you take them for HS, it may take 6 to 12 months for your skin to clear up. The drugs can cause side effects like dry skin, and they aren't safe to use if you’re pregnant.

Steroids relieve swelling and pain. They can clear up the bumps you have and stop new ones from forming. Your doctor might give you steroids in a shot, or you can take them as a pill. These medicines can cause side effects such as weight gain, constipation, and mood changes.


Metformin, a medicine for diabetes, has helped some women who have blocked sweat glands, but studies haven't proved that it's safe or works well for everyone with the condition.

If one or more of these medicines don't work and your HS is severe, your doctor might prescribe a biologic drug that turns down your immune system. Adalimumab (Humira) is the first and only one that the FDA has approved to treat HS.

Another biologic that research shows has promise is infliximab (Remicade). There is research to suggest that when paired with Humira or Remicade, methotrexate (Otrexup (PF), Rasuvo, Trexall, Xatmep), a drug that powers down your immune system, can help your symptoms and make the antibiotics you take work better. But more research is needed.

Three more drugs -- anakinra (Kineret), canakinumab (Ilaris), and ustekinumab (Stelara) -- may also help in severe cases of HS.

Depending on the drug you take, you can give yourself a shot or get an IV at a hospital. These medicines can sometimes cause some serious side effects, such as a higher chance of infection or, rarely, cancer. You should talk with your doctor about these risks if you are considering taking one of these drugs.


Research has shown that radiation treatment can also be effective for HS. But it’s only used in rare cases because of the chance of long-term side effects to your skin. Talk with your doctor about it.


If the bumps have grown deep into your skin, medicine may not be enough to clear them up. In that case, you might need surgery at your doctor's office or a hospital.

The doctor can cut open and drain a few of the bumps at a time. This procedure helps for a while, but the nodules (bumps) can form again. In that case, you might need the surgery again.

Another type of surgery removes the lumps and some of the skin around them. It can leave a deeper wound, so your doctor will also take a piece of skin from somewhere else on your body to cover it. This is called a skin graft. The bumps will not come back in the same spot, but you can still get new breakouts in other places.


Laser therapy and cryosurgery are promising treatments for HS. They use beams of light or cold gases to destroy the hair follicles that get infected and remove HS bumps. Some people’s breakouts clear up after a few treatments.

Deroofing surgery is a treatment for people with painful HS that comes back over and over. A surgeon turns painful nodules into scars. You might also get this procedure if tunnels have formed under the skin between nodules.

Ask your doctor which of these treatments you need. Talk about the pros and cons before you try one.

WebMD Medical Reference



American Academy of Dermatology: "Hidradenitis suppurativa."

British Association of Dermatologists: "Hidradenitis Suppurativa."

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: “Treatment of hidradenitis suppurativa with biologic medications.”

National Organization for Rare Disorders: "Hidradenitis Suppurativa."

National Health Service: "Hidradenitis suppurativa. Introduction."

UptoDate: “Hidradenitis suppurativa: Treatment.”

Nybaek, H. and Jemec, G.: “Immunosuppressive Therapy in Hidradenitis Suppurativa.”

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