Get access

Hidradenitis suppurativa: a disease of the absent sebaceous gland? Sebaceous gland number and volume are significantly reduced in uninvolved hair follicles from patients with hidradenitis suppurativa


  • Funding sources
    The present study was funded by the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation.

  • Conflicts of interest
    None declared.

Søren Kamp.


Background  The pathogenesis of hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is not clearly understood. The nomenclature suggests an important role for the apocrine glands but recent evidence implicates the pilosebaceous unit as a more likely candidate to play a central role in the pathogenesis.

Objectives  Our aim was to estimate the volume of the follicular epithelium, the follicular lumen and the sebaceous glands of patients with HS and healthy controls by means of stereology.

Methods  Four-millimetre punch biopsies were taken from 21 patients with HS and nine healthy controls, fixed in formalin, embedded in paraffin and stained with haematoxylin and eosin prior to volume estimation using the Cavalieri principle.

Results  Sebaceous gland tissue could be visualized in only 10 of 15 suitable hair follicle biopsies from patients with HS but was present in all biopsies from healthy controls (= 0·05) and the mean sebaceous gland volume per follicle was one-seventh of that of healthy controls (= 0·03). There was no significant difference between patients with HS and healthy controls with regard to follicular epithelium and follicle lumen volume.

Conclusions  Our results suggest that the absence or reduced volume of the sebaceous gland may play a role in the pathogenesis of HS. The presence of fibrosis suggests that sebaceous glands are obliterated early in the pathogenesis of HS.