Comorbidity is a word you will have heard about HS. But do you know what it means?
Comorbidity is a medical term that means two or more conditions that occur at the same time. Sometimes one condition worsens another. Comorbidity can be a physical or mental illness. It can even be a combination of the two.
Sadly, there are many comorbidities associated with HS. In this post, we will talk about what they are. And the difference between cause and correlation. We will also look at some of the ways you can help your body.
Once you understand what comorbidity is, you need to seek the help you need. Whether for an existing condition or prevention of a future one.
What are HS Comorbidities?
HS has an association with several comorbid disorders. Some of these conditions include:
- Crohn’s Disease
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)
- Diabetes type 2
It might seem scary but remember that everyone’s body is different. And just because one person gets a condition, doesn’t mean that everyone will. Plus, lots of these conditions are present in the general population. HS forms a higher risk, that’s all.
Does HS Cause Those Other Conditions?
The answer is a little tricky. As nobody knows what causes HS, it’s hard to say whether HS causes other conditions. What medicine has found is patterns. People with HS are more likely to have conditions like those listed above.
It might be that there is a common thread linking HS and comorbid conditions. An excellent example of this is PCOS. PCOS is a hormone disorder in women. Its primary marker is an excess of testosterone. PCOS has symptoms like:
- heavy, irregular periods,
- weight gain
- excess hair.
It is linked with diabetes type 2, obesity and inflammation. But the exact cause is not known. Can you see the likenesses between PCOS and HS?
Moreover, doctors have suspected HS to have a link to sex hormones. The onset of HS is usually in puberty. And symptoms often worsen during a woman’s period. One condition could be causing the other. Or there could be a third factor causing both PCOS and HS.
Is Comorbidity Inevitable?
Research suggests that an average person with HS have an average of 2.1 comorbidities. That means that you will likely have a comorbid condition. But the specific kinds are not a given. For instance, you may not get CVD or diabetes. If you feel concerned about any illness, you should speak to your doctor.
A more common problem is “associated conditions.” These are conditions that are directly caused by HS and include:
- Social isolation
- Open wounds
- Restricted movement
Yet, these conditions all have treatments. Your doctor might suggest ways to reduce flare-ups. And your dermatologist may know ways to minimise scarring.
Speaking to a mental health professional may help you to overcome social isolation. And proper wound care can reduce pain and discomfort from open wounds.
Can I Control a Comorbidity?
Yes. There is treatment available for some conditions. Doctors recommend weight loss for people with HS. Which reduces the chances of developing diabetes or CVD. As well as that it eases some of the associated conditions of HS.
However, many people with HS have had bad experiences with doctors regarding weight. But this is not the experience of all. At no point should you feel shame or like something is wrong with you. For more information, read our post on weight stigma. We also have a post on talking to your doctor.
Remember, comorbidity is a condition that happens at the same time. But it is still the same condition with or without HS. Moreover, you always have some control over your health. It may not seem like you do. But something as simple as changing your diet or wound care regime can make your life easier.
Understanding medical terms are vital for people with chronic illness. It helps you understand how different systems in your body are connected. Also, it enables you to follow what your treatment team are telling you. Understanding fosters the trust essential to the doctor-patient relationship.
Understanding reduces the guilt that permeates chronic illness. Lots of people feel they caused the development of their condition. Understanding comorbidities shows you that lots of people have the same problems. None of which are their fault. And most importantly, you are not alone.
Conversely, comorbidities are often widespread conditions that we know a lot about. Doctors have lots to learn about HS. But the management of diseases like diabetes or depression is far more advanced. The most important thing you can do is engage with your health provider and get the best strategies you can.
About the Author
Shannon Sweeney is MA student in Community Research & Journalism from Ireland. She is also living with HS and has a keen interest in lifestyle, wellbeing and hidradenitis suppurativa.