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What is Fox-Fordyce Disease & How is it Treated?

What Is Fox-Fordyce Disease?

Fox-Fordyce Disease is an extremely rare disorder of the skin found mainly in females within the age range of 14-40, although there have been some cases of males and children being affected by this condition as well. Fox-Fordyce Disease is also known by the name of Sweat Retention Disease.

It is mainly characterized by development of bumps around the hair follicles which tend to be pretty itchy around the underarm area, genital regions, and around the nipples. The main cause of Fox-Fordyce Disease is inflammation of the apocrine sweat glands.

The reason behind only the above mentioned three areas being affected by Fox-Fordyce Disease is because the apocrine sweat glands are present in these areas only and inflammation to these glands result in development of Fox-Fordyce Disease.

What Is Fox-Fordyce Disease?

What Are The Causes Of Fox-Fordyce Disease?

The root cause for the development of Fox-Fordyce Disease is unknown but it is believed to be caused by inflammation of the apocrine sweat glands found under the arms, genital areas, and the nipples.

Why this inflammation occurs is something which is still under investigation but the apocrine glands get trapped somehow as there is formation of a plug around the hair follicle.

As a result of this, the sweat gland ruptures and becomes inflamed causing severe itching around the area. Some of the factors which may play a role in development of Fox-Fordyce Disease are hormonal imbalances and other psychological factors.

What Are The Symptoms Of Fox-Fordyce Disease?

The classic presenting feature of Fox-Fordyce Disease is an intense sensation of itching in the underarm, genital, or nipple areas which may be so intense that it may wake an individual up from sleep.

This sensation is further intensified by humid weather conditions, intense, friction caused by rubbing of clothes, and in some cases stress also plays a role in development of Fox-Fordyce Disease. The characteristics of the rash caused due to Fox-Fordyce Disease are:

  • Dome shaped red small rash which tends to affect almost all the hair follicles in the area.
  • The skin tends to get darker, thick, and extremely dry around the affected areas.
  • Lack of sweating around the affected area

In some cases, these rashes clear up by themselves where as in some cases it may take several years for the rashes to clears up but usually they resolve by the time the female reaches menopause.

How Is Fox-Fordyce Disease Diagnosed?

There are no standard investigational studies to diagnose Fox-Fordyce Disease. A detailed history of the patient along with the features of the rash is good enough to confirm the diagnosis of Fox-Fordyce Disease.

How Is Fox-Fordyce Disease Treated?

There is no cure for Fox-Fordyce Disease as of yet but there are different medications which can be used for relief of symptoms of Fox-Fordyce Disease. The efficacy of these medications however has been variable. Some of the medications used for treatment of Fox-Fordyce Disease are:

  • Topical Retinoids.These are basically creams and lotions which contain medicines derived from vitamin A. These compounds improve skin proliferation and are quite useful in treating Fox-Fordyce Disease. Some of the names of topical retinoids are Retin A and Retinova.
  • Topical steroids are also used at times for treatment of Fox-Fordyce Disease with some success.
  • Oral antibiotics in case of infection are used for treatment of symptoms of Fox-Fordyce Disease
  • Clindamycin solution is also quite an effective way to get rid of symptoms of itching arising due to Fox-Fordyce Disease.
  • Surgery. Some people also opt for surgical excision of the rashes but these forms of treatment are cost prohibitive and rate of recurrence is also very high
  • Anti-androgenic hormonal therapy is also a form of treatment used by females for treatment of Fox-Fordyce Disease. The function of these medications is to counteract the effect of male sex hormones which may play a part in Fox-Fordyce Disease.


  1. “Fox-Fordyce Disease.” DermNet NZ. https://dermnetnz.org/topics/fox-fordyce-disease/
  2. “Fox-Fordyce Disease: A Review and Case Series.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5683125/
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 5, 2023

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