What is the historical understanding of hidradenitis suppurativa (HS)?

Updated: Aug 30, 2019
  • Author: Marina Jovanovic, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) has traditionally been considered a disorder of the apocrine glands. Hidradenitis suppurativa was first described as a distinct entity in 1839, when Velpeau reported a patient with superficial abscess formation in the axillary, mammary, and perianal regions. [18] In 1854, Verneuil associated the suppurative process with the sweat glands, and the condition was given its current name. For many years, the condition was described as Verneuil disease, but it subsequently became known as hidradenitis suppurativa. Not having performed any histopathologic studies himself, Verneuil conceded that his conclusion was based purely on the characteristic distribution of the condition. [19]

In 1922, Schiefferdecker classified the sweat glands as eccrine and apocrine, and he subsequently localized hidradenitis suppurativa to the apocrine glands. [20] In 1939, Brunsting provided a detailed description of the histologic features of hidradenitis suppurativa. He observed the primary cellular reaction in the lumen of the apocrine glands and in the neighboring periglandular connective tissue. Detailing the clinical features of the disease, Brunsting highlighted its frequent association with acne. He noted that hidradenitis suppurativa, dissecting cellulitis of the scalp and the neck, and acne conglobata commonly occur in the same patient. He thought that the central pathogenetic event in all 3 conditions was a tendency for follicular hyperkeratinization with secondary bacterial infection. [21]

In 1956, Pillsbury et al combined acne conglobata, hidradenitis suppurativa, and dissecting cellulitis under the term follicular occlusion triad. [22] The only flaw in their concept was their focus on apocrine sweat gland involvement. In 1975, Plewig and Kligman added pilonidal sinus as another component to the ensemble, and they introduced the term acne tetrad. [23] Plewig and Kligman pointed out that hidradenitis suppurativa is a misnomer because of the lack of apocrine gland involvement, but they did not present a detailed explanation. In 1989, Plewig and Steger suggested the term acne inversa as an inclusive and accurate name for what was previously called the follicular occlusion triad, or follicular occlusion tetrad. [24] Eventually, hidradenitis suppurativa was accepted as an acneiform disorder that begins with follicular occlusion rather than an infection of the sweat glands. [25, 26]

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