Use of Complementary and Alternative Treatment for Hidradenitis Suppurativa Reportedly Low

Dermatologists should ask patients with hidradenitis suppurativa about complementary or alternative medicine use, and provide education about costs vs benefits.

Patients with hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) cite dissatisfaction with conventional treatment and curiosity as reasons for using complementary or alternative medicine, according to study results published in the British Journal of Dermatology. However, patients also report that their dermatologists do not ask about such usage.

Investigators distributed an anonymous questionnaire to all patients visiting referral specialist HS clinics over 4 months. Patients were asked to respond to questions about previous use of complementary or alternative medicine and rationale for and duration of use, cost, and treatment success, as well as duration of the skin condition and previous hospital admissions because of HS.

Responses from the 107 completed questionnaires indicated that 20% of patients had previously used complementary or alternative medicine (n = 21). Turmeric was the most reported treatment (33.3%, n = 7), followed by reiki (28.6%, n = 6) and acupuncture (19%, n = 4), with a cost of ≤€5, €30, and €50, respectively.

More than 33% of patients cited curiosity and dissatisfaction with conventional treatment as reasons for trying alternative therapies. The average duration of complementary or alternative therapy was 1.05 years. The mean duration of HS was 13.1 years, and 44% of respondents had previously been admitted to hospital for HS treatment (n = 40). In total, 8 patients reported a reduction in symptoms and improved quality of life (38.1%). Adverse events were widely reported by patients, but negative outcomes were not.

Related Articles

Study results may have been influenced, as respondents also had access to conventional treatment; cost of supplemental treatments and sample size may also represent study limitations.

Only 3 patients reported that their dermatologists asked them about complementary or alternative medicine use. “We recommend routine questioning about [complementary or alternative medicine] use in all patients presenting with HS,” the investigators concluded. They added that the use of expensive but ineffective treatments should be discouraged, especially in a disease commonly found in patients of lower socioeconomic status and income.

Follow @DermAdvisor


Kearney N, Byrne N, Kirby B, Hughes R. Complementary and alternative medicine use in hidradenitis suppurativa [published online August 9, 2019]. Br J Dermatol. doi:10.1111/bjd.18426