What is commonly referred to as genital acne is actually a medical condition known as Higradenitis Suppurativa. The visible appearance of this other condition resembles acne or pimples, which is probably why the confusion between the two conditions exists.
What is the Difference?
Unlike acne vulgaris, which involves the sebaceous glands, Hidradenitis Suppurativa involves a different set of glands - the apocrine glands. Apocrine glands are located in the groin area and under the arms and the nipples and these glands can also become blocked.
Perspiration is the culprit, much like it is with acne vulgaris, but something else that can happen to the aporine glands is that they sometimes do not develop completely. When materials become trapped inside these glands and cannot get outside the body they end up being forced out into the tissues that surround the blocked glands.
The end result is a painful infection and inflammation surrounding the area of infection that sometimes causes pimple like lesions to appear on the surface of the skin.
Besides excessive perspiration, which is common in this area, there are other situations that can cause irritation in the groin area and trigger this condition. Clothing that is too tight and that constantly rubs against the skin is one culprit, but some laundry detergents or fabric softeners can also irritate the skin.
If you've got trouble in this area, try using a different detergent or even a different body soap or shaving product to see if the problem goes away.
If the problem persists and especially if the lesions are present on the genital organs, it's probably time to see a doctor.
Unfortunately, genital acne is sometimes something more serious. The lesions can actually be a symptom of a sexually-transmitted disease such as genital herpes or warts and have nothing at all to do with blocked glands.
Yes, this visit will likely be uncomfortable and even embarrassing, but its absolutely necessary to the right diagnosis. That's the only way you'll be able to make this bad situation better.
When the diagnosis is Hidradenitis Suppuratuve, its easier to treat if its a mild case. If so, then switch to wearing clothing that doesn't fit quite so snugly. And just as with acne, you'll want to keep the affected areas free of bacteria so cleanse with an antiseptic, or hydrogen or benzoyl peroxide solution.
If the lesions have a discharge or are painful, they might have an infection that requires antibiotics or other acne medication. Extreme lesions may even need to be sliced open and drained, but this is only recommended for very severe situations.
A topical treatment that may relieve some of the itching, irritation, or soreness is diluted tea tree oil. Add 10 or 15 drops of tea tree oil to a carrier oil like almond, olive, or rape seed oil. Aloe vera gel works well also for diluting tea tree oil for sensitive areas or skin types.
When this medical situation is under control, making a few simple changes to your cleansing routine will help keep this often painful condition from reemerging. As with any type of acne, genital exfoliation is the key to keeping bacteria under control. The exfoliation process helps to remove dead cells so that they don't become a problem. Be sure to use a mild cleanser and to rub gently so the skin doesn't become irritated.