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When Other Health Conditions Tag Along With Hidradenitis Suppurativa

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When other chronic illness tag along with hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), it can be quite difficult. You might have HS and, for example, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). These chronic illnesses can be traumatic enough, but when you also have HS, it can be overwhelming and scary to try and cope with both at the same time.  

My PTSD started when I was young due to bullying, and it got worse through the school years. After my school years were over, I thought my PTSD had ended. But when I was diagnosed with HS after many trips to the urgent care clinic, my PTSD symptoms started coming back again. I would get so anxious and panicked about having another HS flare-up. Stress from my job also made my PTSD symptoms worse — and, stress from work also made my HS symptoms worse. 

It was difficult to manage both PTSD and HS at the same time. My mother, who is a nurse, helped me take care of my flare-ups and my emotional trials of pain and feeling mentally and physically weak. When I’d have an HS flare up, it would take all the energy out of me and I would feel physically and spiritually drained because of the pain. It felt like my emotions were on the verge of overflowing over my body. There were times I’d get three to four hours of sleep a night, or no sleep due to my emotional state combined with the pain of HS.

In my case, I ended up quitting my job that was causing me stress, and found another job a couple of years later. My HS has been in remission for about four years. I still worry if I’m going to have another flare-up or not. I’m lucky that I haven’t had a flare-up except for a few scares here and there throughout the years. 

My sister in law has HS as well as PCOS. PCOS is a disorder characterized by growths on the ovaries and ovarian dysfunction. This hormonal imbalance can lead to irregular period cycles, acne, or facial hair. I know she’s going through a tough road and I know she and her husband are very strong on this journey. Her journey began when she was in the hospital after difficulty from surgery, to the point where she was septic from the HS. From what I can see in her eyes, she’s in pain, but she’s fighting and not giving up on her future of starting a family of her own one day. She’s just taking it one day at a time and one symptom at a time. 

Having one or more chronic illnesses along with hidradenitis suppurativa can be worrying and stressful, because it means going to doctor appointments, to see your counselor, your OB/GYN, or your dermatologist, while trying to live a somewhat normal life. It’s hard at times to keep things in line, but here are some ways I try to get through in my daily life. I make Post-It notes to remind myself to do certain things such as grocery shopping and making appointments and calls. That may seem stressful, but it’s easier said than done at times. I just take it day by day, especially since I work part-time at the moment. 

I also recommend talking to others, such as your spouse, caregiver, nurse, or physician. You can seek a professional counselor, or you can find a support group in your community or on social media, like I did a few years back when I was finally diagnosed after a few trips to the urgent care clinic. 

Having HS with a combination of other chronic illnesses can be stressful and it may be hard to focus on several symptoms at once. My advice is to take it one symptom at a time and treat it the best you can, no matter how hard it is.

Originally published: January 24, 2020
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