I've created this F.A.Q. to answer some questions you might have. If you find anything hard to understand, or think that there's a question that would be good to add to this list, please write me
Q: What are boils?
A: According to the Online Medical Dictionary, a boil is: "A HARD, PAINFUL, INFLAMED TUMOUR, WHICH, ON SUPPURATION, DISCHARGES PUS, MIXED WITH BLOOD, AND DISCLOSES A SMALL FIBROUS MASS OF DEAD TISSUE, CALLED THE CORE." Simply put, they are like really bad zits; but usually much more painful and much bigger.
Q: What is Hidradenitis?
A: According to the Online Medical Dictionary, Hidradenitis is: "THE INFLAMMATION OF A SWEAT GLAND (USUALLY OF THE APOCRINE TYPE)." Basically, the disease (or disorder) "HIDRADENITIS SUPPURATIVA" is characterized by having problems with recurrent boils.
Q: What are all these other terms you're using?
A: There are many terms throughout this site (and others like it) that might be unfamiliar. I have created a small glossary that can be helpful in identifying these terms. As well, there are other resources online (check out the links page for more information.
Q: Where are the places on the body that boils most often occur?
A: Many places are affected, including; the armpits, the groin area, beneath the breasts, around the nose, behind the ear, between the buttocks. Any place that accumulates sweat and doesn't get a great deal of direct air seems to be affected, but boils seem to be able to appear anywhere.
Q: If I have recurring boils, does that mean I have Hidradenitis Suppurativa?
A: I really can't answer this question - and that's probably the main reason I've started this site. Although there is a small amount of information available about H.S. and its main symptom is recurring boils, there is not a lot being done about the illness itself. Therefore, I wanted to create a vehicle for awareness about boils in order to hopefully treat the symptom and provide some relief for sufferers. As well, the more people who come to the site searching out information about boils, the more people will realize there is an illness that could be associated with the problem. Boils could also possibly be symptomatic of other diseases or disorders. I've seen reference to an association with diabetes, for one.
Q: Who are the most likely people to get boils?
A: There is no real answer to this question, either - that I know of, anyhow. I do know that it seems to affect everyone, regardless of age, gender or race. The only pattern I've seen is that most people tend to start having the problem during puberty. Perhaps there's a link there somewhere. Then again, I've had people write me and tell me that their children have problems with boils.
Q: How many people are afflicted with recurrent boils?
A: This is also unknown. But I have to say that I felt like I was the only person on this planet that was affected, until I found the resources I have online. What a relief to know that I wasn't. It's amazing how much email I receive, and how many hits this site receives. You aren't alone!
Q: How often do these boils occur?
A: It varies, widely. Some people only get a few a year. Others get them daily. Some go into a remission, of sorts, for years, and then wake up to find themselves back at square one.
Q: I'm having trouble understanding what the big deal is - I mean, it's just a little acne, right? How debilitating is this illness?
A: It's all relative, but boils are not only embarrassing, but extremely painful. Those people that breakout on a regular basis are usually in constant discomfort or pain. Some people are totally unable to work, or have to take a great deal of time off from work because of the illness. Many folks are known to sink into deep depressions, and have very low self-esteem.
Q: What causes boils?
A: There isn't necessarily a known cause. Some have theorized that it has to do with blockages of the sweat glands. Others that it is a blood disorder.
Q: Are boils caused by bad hygiene?
A: This is a common misconception. While bad hygeine definitely doesn't HELP this problem, and of course, bad hygeine could very possibly cause boils, the hygiene issue is not one that's really addressed by this site. The people who I talk to and read about who have recurring boils take great care to keep themselves clean. In fact, they probably keep themselves cleaner than the "NORMAL" person would.
Q: Are boils caused by being overweight?
A: This is another common misconception. But, yes and no. Because boils tend to occur in places where the skin is folded over (and therefore, can not "BREATHE"), those that are overweight might have more problems with boils. But, people who are of all shapes and sizes have recurring boils. I've personally talked to some rather slender folks who have boils.
Q: What should I do if I have boils?
A: My personal recommendation is to do as much research on your own, and then make an appointment with your physician. If your physician brushes it off as "NOT A BIG DEAL" and you believe it is a big deal (eg. it's very painful, embarrassing, etc), then by all means, get a second opinion.
Q: What can I do to prevent & treat boils?
A: There is no definitive cure. There are options to try, though. Check out the treatment page.
Q: I have an active, painful boil at the moment - what can I do to relieve the pain?
A: Check out the treatment page.
Q: Is any one option better than another?
A: Every individual is different. What works for one person might not work for another. Therefore, the best answer is that you must find out for yourself. The most important thing is to do your own research and find out all the possibilities. Talk to people who have undergone different treatments. Make a list of questions to ask. Figure out what you can endure and how much effort you're willing to put out in order to see a change.
Q: Where can I find more information about boils and associated diseases or illnesses?
A: There are many resources on the net, and I've listed some in my links page.
Q: Is there any research being conducted about boils or HS? What can I do to help?
A: From what I know, very little is being conducted. Unfortunately, grants and monies go to the "BIG" (common) diseases. Hidradenitis is considered a "RARE" disease. If you're interested in finding out more about how to help, contact the National Organization for Rare Disorders (N.O.R.D.). They specialize in taking action and contributions towards research for rare disorders.
Q: Is there anywhere I can go for support?
A: Check out the support page for information on peer support groups that are available.
Q: I have a great deal of trouble with dating and finding a romantic partner because I'm embarrassed about this illness. Is there any advice or support available for me?
A: As well as the support groups (see above), I will be trying to launch some sort of "TALKBACK" feature on this site in the future around this very issue. If you're interested in writing an opinion/advice piece about this, please contact me by email.
Q: I find that I don't have as many friends because I can't participate in some "NORMAL" activities. Some days I'm lucky if I can make it out of bed. Any solutions?
A: I'd like to launch a "TALKBACK" feature on this site around this issue as well. Again, if you're interested in writing an opinion/advice piece, please contact me by email.
Q: How can I help a friend or loved one who has a problem with recurrent boils?
A: Encourage them to research the problem. Provide support and assure them that they are not at fault. Tell them you love them. Do all the things that you normally do to express how much you care. If you have a loved one that suffers with recurring boils, and have some good advice to share, please contact me by email.
Q: What is the purpose of this site?
A: To provide information and support about boils. To ensure those folks that suffer with recurring boils don't feel they are totally alone.
Q: Who runs this site and why?
A: thestorygrrl, and that's it - just me. :) I do it because I suffered (mostly in total silence) with this problem for many years. I know what a huge relief it was to find information and other people to talk to about this problem, and I want to provide that same relief to others.
Q: I'd like to contribute my experience or information to your site. How can I do this?
A: Please write me with your suggestions or ideas and we'll talk!
Site first published: February 10, 1999
Somewhere In Canada