Getting a diagnosis
Your GP is usually the first doctor you will see about symptoms. HS is often under-recognised and diagnosis is frequently delayed; typically because patients attend their GP or local A&E to have individual abscesses incised and drained, but the recurring patterns in not noticed at the time.
Your symptoms may require a referral to a hospital-based dermatologist for investigation. This is why HS is more commonly diagnosed by a skin specialist, based on the history, appearance and the distribution of nodules or abscesses. Don’t be embarrassed when speaking to your doctor, try to speak openly and honestly about your symptoms to help establish a diagnosis.
HS is not that widely known and some doctors may not be familiar with the condition. It is often diagnosed only after a considerable delay since the disease is often mistaken for a simple infection. For example, someone with HS symptoms may be have their condition confused with another condition (like common boils) which may be treated with lancing or short-term antibiotic therapy – which, while effective initially, will fail to prevent the symptoms from reoccurring.
Before seeing your GP, it may be useful to take note of your symptoms and perhaps have photographs of parts of your skin that are affected. It may also be useful to bring some reliable information from trusted sources (like the Irish Skin Foundation or British Association of Dermatologists etc.).
Most dermatologists treat HS, but there are a number of dermatologists in Ireland with a particular interest in the condition (there are specialist HS clinics at Tallaght Hospital & St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin for instance). Remember that following the abolition of catchment areas by the HSE, your GP is now permitted to refer you to any hospital (of your choice) nationwide. For more information please call our Helpline on (01) 486-6280.