Vicks VapoRub for HS
Vicks VapoRub is not an established or prescribed treatment for hidradenitis suppurativa (HS). However, it is often promoted as a solution to HS problems. There is no scientific evidence to prove its safety or efficacy, but applying Vicks VapoRub could reduce pain or mask the odor that exudes from hidradenitis suppurativa flares.
Besides, Vicks helps in the following ways
- Vicks VapoRub contains camphor and menthol, which are considered topical analgesics. Vicks can be used to hide the odor that comes from hidradenitis suppurativa flares. Menthol and camphor are also used in over-the-counter anti-itch lotions. Patients reporting itch near their HS spots may benefit from the additional anti-itch action from these ingredients.
- The nutmeg oil present in Vicks is reported to reduce swelling and inflammation when applied topically. It also acts as an antimicrobial agent.
- Thymol or thyme oil present in Vicks VapoRub has been reported to have antifungal properties in a few studies (naturally occurring fungi in the skin microbiome could contribute to the itch reported in some HS patients).
- Patients also report that it can encourage painful abscesses to rupture and drain, providing relief. When Vicks is applied over a clean, dry lesion and covered with a Band-Aid, with or without the use of a heating pad, it can help shrink a painful bump.
It is important to note that the manufacturers say that Vicks should not be applied to broken skin (though patients report that they have no problem applying it near their HS wounds) or areas near mucus membranes (such as the eyes, anus or inner labia). So, be careful when deciding the areas to try this topical product. Vicks has a strong hot-cool effect, so applying to delicate areas is not advised. It is important to note that these same ingredients that provide relief can also cause a skin reaction in some people, including burning, redness or a rash. So, use it sparingly to understand how the body reacts to it.
What is hidradenitis suppurativa (HS)?
Hidradenitis suppurativa is considered a severe skin disease that produces painful, pus-filled bumps under the skin. These bumps occur in hair follicles near the sweat glands and in areas where skin frequently rubs against skin or clothing.
Cause of hidradenitis suppurativa (HS)
- This condition develops due to blockage of the ducts leading to skin pores.
- When the duct lining cells block the ducts, a plug builds up in those blocked areas and starts expanding the duct. This results in leakage of its contents, causing swelling and irritation.
- The oil duct and hair follicle eventually explode sideways under the skin.
- The body develops a strong irritant and allergic reaction to this foreign material under the skin.
- The reaction develops in large, red, hot, painful swellings that eventually break down and drain pus. Even though this is not an infection, this problem can be hereditary.
- In addition to family history, this condition is related to hormones. It commonly starts around puberty. It often gets worse each month with the menstrual cycle.
- Stress can be a factor and sweating can trigger a flare.
- Friction in areas of involvement is often a problem. The walls of the pores or “follicles” in the sweaty areas of the body seem to "weaken" and easily rupture. Anything that rubs the areas (tight clothing, menstrual pads, etc.) can cause the plugged and swollen ducts to break down more easily.
Stages of hidradenitis suppurativa (HS)
- Hurley stage I: There are some boils, one or several. However, they do not have small tunnels under the skin and scarring is fairly minor.
- Hurley stage II: There are recurrent boils with small sinuses under the skin and scarring. There may be one or several of these complexes scattered in different areas or small groups of them.
- Hurley stage III: There are large areas involved with multiple interconnected tunnels and tracks. Draining lesions with a lot of scarring.
Treatment of hidradenitis suppurativa (HS)
- Antiseptic washes can be helpful. These help with the odor and pus drainage.
- There are a few surgical options available for the treatment of hidradenitis suppurativa (HS). Lancing of individual bumps is the simplest and least invasive surgical option, but it only provides short-term relief from painful flare-ups. The recurrence of bumps is likely following this treatment.
- In many patients, bumps caused by HS repeatedly appear in the same location. In such instances, the “unroofing” procedure could be used. It turns bumps and pockets under the skin into a painless scar-tissue. This procedure is more resistant to relapse of HS than lancing and draining.
- Severe cases of HS may require widespread removal of problem areas of the skin. During such procedures, the removed skin is replaced with skin from another part of the body, which is known as a skin graft. The new skin will attach and grow in the area just like the original skin.
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