Pilonidal Cyst Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

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pilonidal cystIn the modern world that we live in, more of us than ever spend the majority of the day on our backsides. Many jobs require us to sit all day at a desk or computer.

And if the TV is our preferred form of relaxation, we may find that we do even more sitting after the workday ends. Painful growths on or around the rear can be a fairly big distraction.

Like a pilonidal cyst, for example. In this column, we will tackle this possible pain in the butt by examining pilonidal cyst causes and pilonidal cyst symptoms, as well as pilonidal cyst diagnosis and pilonidal cyst treatment.

What Is a Pilonidal Cyst?

What is a pilonidal cyst? The cyst part you probably have an idea about, but what about the pilonidal part? And what does it have to do with your rear end? A pilonidal cyst is a cyst that forms at the top of the crease of your buttocks. These cysts can start off small, but do have the potential to grow larger in size. Due to the area in which they form, they can become easily aggravated, infected, and inflamed, leading to a large amount of discomfort especially if you do a lot of sitting. Given the amount of pain and discomfort that a pilonidal cyst could have in store for you, you may be curious to know what causes them. You may be able to prevent a pilonidal cyst from occurring, leaving your backside free of pain and aggravation.

Pilonidal Cyst Causes

What’s tricky about pilonidal cysts is the fact that we don’t quite know what causes them in the first place. But, there are a few factors that seem to cause a pilonidal cyst, or at the very least, contribute to its creation.

1. Ingrown Hairs

It is thought that, like many other cysts, pilonidal cysts may be caused by ingrown hairs. In fact, pilonidal means “nest of hairs.”

2. Injury/Trauma

For a long period of time, injury and trauma were thought to be contributing factors in the formation of a pilonidal cyst. Many soldiers in World War II were diagnosed with pilonidal cysts, and at the time, the cysts were blamed on the trauma a jeep could do to your tailbone. This was widespread enough that the cysts were also known as “Jeep disease.”

3. Dimples

If you have a dimple in that general area of your tailbone, there is a chance that it may become infected and form a cyst.

All of this, however, isn’t for sure, and science is still trying to figure out why these cysts form.

Pilonidal Cyst Symptoms

The symptoms of a pilonidal cyst can vary from person to person and depend on whether the cyst is infected. The cyst itself will appear as a bump toward the top of the crease in your butt. It could be as small as a pimple, especially when it first starts, but a pilonidal can get a bit larger. The cyst itself is a sack of skin filled with a liquid. If the cyst becomes abscessed, that sack can fill with pus. The following symptoms can be present in a pilonidal cyst, especially when it is infected:

  • Hair protruding from the lesion
  • Reddened, sore skin around the area
  • Pain when sitting or standing
  • Swelling of the cyst
  • Pus or blood draining from the abscess, causing a foul odor
  • Formation of more than one sinus tract, or holes in the skin
  • With these symptoms on hand, you can proceed to the next step in the process: diagnosis.
  • Pilonidal Cyst Diagnosis

With the symptoms in mind, you have gone to the doctor to talk about the little bump by your tailbone. How will they go about diagnosing the problem? The first step is to go through your medical history. You may think that it’s unnecessary, but it helps the doctor to rule out other potential issues. The next step is a physical examination. The doctor will examine the cyst, looking at its size, shape, and color to help determine what it is and if it is a pilonidal cyst. He or she will also decide the best way to go about treating it, especially if that cyst has become infected.

Pilonidal Cyst Treatment

With your pilonidal cyst diagnosed by your doctor, you can now move on to the treatment stage. In the case of a pilonidal cyst, there are a few different options of treatment depending on the status of the cyst.

1. Antibiotics

If the cyst is currently painless and not causing any health issues, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics in an attempt to clear it out and heal the cyst.

2. Draining

If the cyst is still relatively small in size and no large complications have arisen from it, the doctor may opt to drain the cyst in the hopes that it will shrink and disappear. This can be done in a few different methods, most of which are very quick day surgeries. The cyst is cut and drained, and then you go on your way.

3. Surgery

If the cyst has gotten too large or has brought upon you too many complications from infections, surgery to remove the cyst in its entirety may be performed.

Of course, the best treatment for a pilonidal cyst is to try and avoid getting one in the first place.

Pilonidal Cyst Prevention

After hearing about all of the discomforts you can look forward if you end up with a pilonidal cyst, you may want to take a few steps in trying to prevent one from forming or at the very least, forming again.

1. Practice Good Hygiene

Keep the area clean and clear. Exfoliate to make sure you remove dead skin and other debris from the area that may become cyst forming material.

2. Get up and Move

If you sit for long period of time due to work, etc, make sure to get off your butt every now and then and walk around or stand up for a few minutes before returning to your seat.

3. Avoid Tight Clothing

Tight clothing in the rear region can prevent hairs from growing outward, and may even push hairs inward, helping to create a cyst.

These methods can help keep your butt area cyst free.

A Pain in the Butt

There are no two ways about it: Pilonidal cysts are a pain in the butt literally and figuratively. And that’s before they become infected. If the cyst becomes infected, you may have a whole host of other issues to contend with. If there is a lump or bump bothering you in the tailbone region, get it checked out. The earlier, the better. It may mean the difference between a course of antibiotics and major surgery.

“What is a Pilonidal Cyst?” WebMD; http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/pilondial-cyst#1, last accessed June 29, 2017.
Underwood, C., “Pilonidal Sinus,” Healthline, October 26, 2015, http://www.healthline.com/health/pilonidal-cyst#overview1, last accessed June 29, 2017.