Are Pilonidal Cysts Dangerous? Here's What You Need to Know...

Are Pilonidal Cysts Dangerous? Here’s What You Need to Know…

Pilonidal Cysts

Have you been diagnosed with a pilonidal cyst, or do you suspect that you might have one? If so, there's a good chance that one of your most pressing questions is "Are pilonidal cysts dangerous?"

The good news is that pilonidal cysts are rarely life-threatening. However, they can cause unpleasant problems that require medical attention, and the treatments themselves can also lead to complications.

Your doctor is your best source of information about the risks associated with pilonidal disease, but the following guide will provide a general overview of the ins and outs of this condition.

Everyday Pilonidal Cysts

Pilonidal disease occurs when an unnatural tract forms in the area at the top of the buttocks. It begins at the surface level of the skin and travels down through the tissue. It may terminate at a small cavity. Although this condition is often called a pilonidal cyst, it's better known as a pilonidal sinus because of its channel structure.

The typical understanding of pilonidal disease is that the tract itself is not a cause for serious concern because it is generally harmless. In fact, some people have such a tract for years without ever realizing it.

If you are aware of the presence of a sinus tract, you may be able to take precautions to reduce the likelihood of developing complications. Removing body hair, practicing good hygiene and losing weight can be effective strategies.

Infection and Related Complications

Unfortunately, many pilonidal sinuses go on to become infected. The pocket at the end of the tract has a tendency to accumulate hair and other debris. Oils and bacteria on the skin can also travel down into the cavity. This collection can lead to infection in the pilonidal sinus.

When a pilonidal sinus becomes infected, it becomes known as a pilonidal abscess. An infection can cause a number of undesirable side effects. These include:

  • Redness or swelling
  • Irritation or pain
  • Leakage of blood, pus or other fluids

Although these symptoms aren't necessarily dangerous, they are not something you'd want to live with long term. In some cases, the symptoms of infection can extend beyond the region of the buttocks. An infected pilonidal sinus can give you a fever. You might experience chills, nausea, fatigue or weakness.

Doctors often treat pilonidal abscesses by draining them. They create an incision so they can clean out debris and release blood and pus. This treatment is usually effective for short-term relief.

There is a chance that the incision site could become infected. Therefore, some doctors prescribe antibiotics after the procedure.

Unfortunately, another major risk of abscess draining is that the pilonidal infection is likely to return. Some studies have found a recurrence rate of 38 percent after a pilonidal sinus is drained. In the video below, doctors discuss how common it is for pilonidal cysts to become reinfected after a drainage procedure:

Post-surgical Complications

The long-term solution for repeated pilonidal infections is surgery. Excising the sinus tract is a common approach. Although this can be an effective form of treatment, it's not without complications. One potential problem is that the surgical wound can become infected.

Another concern is that recurrence is not uncommon, even after a full excision. In one study, 7.2 percent of people had pilonidal disease return after surgical treatment.

When a pilonidal sinus comes back, the same risk factors and complications as the first round are likely to occur again. These may include pain and the accumulation of pus.

Some surgical treatments of pilonidal disease may reduce the risk of developing a repeat infection. Laser coagulation of the sinus tract is one promising option.

Rare Complications

There have been some reported cases in which pilonidal sinuses have developed a form of skin cancer inside the tract. This type of cancer is known as squamous cell carcinoma. However, this is rare, so most people with pilonidal disease do not need to worry about this danger.

The development of cancerous cells seems to be associated with chronic pilonidal infections. This fact could serve as a worthwhile motivation to get pilonidal sinuses treated quickly and effectively instead of delaying long-term treatment solutions.

Are pilonidal cysts dangerous? No, it is unlikely that you'll have any life-threatening conditions arise because of pilonidal disease. However, this condition can be painful, irritating, and all-around miserable. If you are experiencing a flare-up, it's best to treat it as soon as possible so that your symptoms don't become more serious.

As with all medical issues, your physician is the ultimate source as to what procedure best fits your needs. Discuss all options and get a second opinion if you have any doubts. These articles are intended to be a source of general information only.

Brian Chandler

Brian Chandler