Living with Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) poses significant challenges, impacting the quality of life for many individuals.
Amidst various treatment options, laser hair removal has emerged as a promising solution for managing Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) symptoms.
In this detailed guide, we will explore the intricacies of HS, the potential of laser hair removal, and other relevant aspects to empower individuals considering this treatment.
What is Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS)?
Hidradenitis suppurativa is a chronic skin condition characterized by the formation of painful lumps, abscesses, and boils in skin folds.
Typically, these areas include the armpits, under the breasts, between thighs, and around the groin.
The onset of this condition is usually during puberty, leading to severe scarring and a substantial impact on an individual’s daily life.
What Causes Hidradenitis Suppurativa?
The exact cause of Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) is unknown, but it’s associated with blocked hair follicles causing lumps.
Factors contributing to its development include a history of acne, increased hair growth, smoking, obesity, hormonal changes in puberty, and a genetic predisposition.
HS often runs in families. 1 in 3 cases have a first degree relative who also has the condition.
It is not infectious or linked to poor hygiene. It is a systemic condition that can be associated with arthritis.
Smoking and obesity can worsen symptoms, escalating the condition. While HS can start before puberty, the disease can have an insidious onset and its clinical presentation can be variable
What Are The Stages Of Hidradenitis Suppurativa?
HS is categorized into three stages known as the Hurley Stages, each indicating the severity of the condition:
Hurley Stage I: Isolated boils without sinus tract formation.
Hurley Stage II: Multiple, larger boils or abscesses with some sinus tract formation and scarring.
Hurley Stage III: Severe, widespread bumps, extensive sinus tract formation, and scarring.
Laser hair removal is generally recommended for individuals in Hurley Stages I and II due to its effectiveness in less aggressive and chronic cases.
Physical Findings of HS (Symptoms)
Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a skin condition that can cause various signs and symptoms, ranging from mild to severe.
These signs include boil-like lumps, blackheads, cysts, scarring, and pus leakage from channels in the skin.
HS commonly affects areas like the groin, genitals, armpits, and inner thighs.
It starts as painful small red bumps or nodules that can become pus-filled, and may later disappear or rupture, leading to the formation of new lumps.
This sometimes painful disease may result in the development of sinus tracts, narrow channels that break out on the skin’s surface and leak pus.
These symptoms can cause discomfort and lead to scarring.
Typical lesions, characteristic distribution and recurrences over a period if 6 months is required to meet the criteria for HS.
Treatment of Hidradenitis Suppurativa
Medical management is recommended for early stages. This includes:
- Local hygiene
- Weight reduction
- Use of antiseptic soaps
- Warm compresses
- Wearing loose fitting clothing
- Smoking cessation
- Laser hair removal or antibiotics and steroid injections.
For later stages of the disease, surgery is performed.
Does Laser Hair Removal Treat Hidradenitis Suppurativa?
Understanding how laser hair removal interacts with HS is crucial in assessing its effectiveness. Laser hair removal operates by targeting and destroying hair follicles using concentrated light.
Hair follicles in Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) get blocked by dead skin cells and oil, leading to symptoms like swelling and pus.
Laser hair removal, which damages follicles and inhibits hair growth, has shown promise in improving HS symptoms by addressing these underlying issues.
Studies indicate a noteworthy improvement in HS symptoms through laser hair removal reporting a 32% to 72% improvement after 2 to 4 months of treatment.
Moreover, Laser treatment offers some notable benefits as it avoids the body-wide side effects commonly associated with pills, and individuals undergoing laser treatment typically experience less pain and scarring compared to what they might encounter with surgical procedures.
What Kinds of Lasers Treat Hidradenitis Suppurativa?
Several laser types have been explored for treating Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS). The carbon dioxide laser, a gas laser emitting a powerful beam of light, has been in use since the late 1980s and has shown effectiveness in producing long-term remissions.
The Nd:YAG laser, functioning in the infrared spectrum, can penetrate more deeply into the skin than other lasers.
This type of laser appears to work particularly well for HS, especially in areas of the skin with dark and thick hairs.
Our medical aesthetics clinic near Ottawa uses the Elite iQ™ laser to carry out laser hair removal treatments for all skin types.
This dual-wavelength laser uses the Nd: YAG, and Alexandrite lasers – The 755 nm Alexandrite laser is ideal for lighter skin types I – IV, while the 1064 nm Nd: YAG laser is perfect for darker skin types V – VI.
Intense pulsed light therapy is another light-based treatment for HS. Instead of focusing on a single beam of light, it uses beams of different wavelengths to damage the hair follicles.
Benefits of Laser Hair Removal to Treat Hidradenitis Suppurativa
Laser hair removal emerges as a promising avenue for alleviating symptoms associated with Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) while keeping side effects to a minimum.
This non-invasive procedure showcases effectiveness in targeted areas where symptoms manifest, providing individuals with a precise solution for symptom management.
However, it’s important to note that the success of laser hair removal is notably linked to skin and hair characteristics.
Individuals with fair skin and dark hair tend to experience optimal results, as the laser relies on distinguishing between skin and hair.
On the contrary, those with fair skin and light-colored hair, such as blond or gray, may find this treatment less effective.
For those with darker skin tones, both long-pulsed Nd:YAG and IPL lasers are considered safe options, with Nd:YAG showing higher efficacy according to research.
Despite these promising prospects, it’s crucial to recognize that laser therapy might not be universally suitable for every HS patient.
A healthcare professional’s guidance is essential to determine the potential effectiveness based on the individual’s specific stage and symptoms of the condition.
Speak with a healthcare provider about laser hair treatment for Hidradenitis Suppurativa.
Is Laser Hair Removal Painful?
One common concern for individuals considering laser hair removal is the level of discomfort associated with the procedure.
Fortunately, laser hair removal is generally well-tolerated, with most individuals reporting minimal to no pain.
The targeted approach ensures that surrounding skin remains undamaged, contributing to a more comfortable experience.
Are There Any Side Effects With Laser Hair Removal For Hidradenitis Suppurativa?
While not many studies talk about possible side effects, it’s important to know that people may react differently to the treatment.
Some might have temporary side effects like mild skin irritation or inflammation. Keeping up with regular appointments is key to keeping an eye on how well the treatment is working.
Does Laser Hair Removal Work For Everyone With HS?
No, laser hair removal is not recommended for individuals with stage 3 Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS).
The reason is that lasers are unable to penetrate areas of the skin with extensive scar tissue, and the treatment tends to be highly painful in the advanced stages of HS.
Laser effectiveness is optimal for individuals with light skin and dark hair, as the contrast is crucial for distinguishing between skin and hair.
Therefore, it may not be suitable for those with blonde or gray hair. For individuals with darker hair and skin, the long-pulse Nd:YAG laser appears to be the most effective choice without causing damage to the skin’s pigment.
While laser hair removal can be a valuable treatment option, it may not be suitable for everyone, and a tailored plan will be discussed during the free consultation at our clinic.
How Many Treatments Will I Need?
The number of laser hair treatments required to address HS depends on the specific laser used and how an individual responds to the treatment.
It may be necessary to undergo the procedure monthly or weekly over several months to a year.
Since research is still ongoing, there is no definitive treatment regimen as studies continue to determine the most effective number of laser hair treatments for HS.
Why Don’t Some Doctors Start by Recommending Laser Hair Removal to Treat HS?
While laser hair removal has shown promise in managing HS symptoms, healthcare providers may consider a multifaceted approach based on individual cases.
Factors such as the severity of symptoms, the stage of HS, and the presence of other health conditions influence the choice of treatment.
Laser hair removal can be a useful option for managing early-stage Hidradenitis Suppurativa by targeting blocked hair follicles.
However, a personalized treatment plan should consider the severity of symptoms, individual health factors, and response to treatments.
It is recommended to consult with a healthcare provider and engage in open discussions about laser hair removal.
Living in Ottawa or its neighboring cities? Contact our clinic for a free consultation at 613-714-9899 or book a free consultation session.
We’ll develop a personalized treatment plan for managing your HS symptoms and achieving overall well-being.
Dr. Lian Peter, MD, MPH, CCFP, is a Family physician with a passion for aesthetics. In her aesthetic clinic, she provides a wide range of minimally invasive and non-invasive procedures, constantly honing her skills to deliver exceptional care and help patients attain their desired appearance.