Are Pilonidal Cysts Hereditary? What the Evidence Suggests

Are Pilonidal Cysts Hereditary? What the Evidence Suggests

Are Pilonidal Cysts Hereditary

When you're dealing with a pilonidal cyst, it's common to wonder why you were struck with this affliction. Was it just bad luck, or is there a specific reason that you're the one suffering from pilonidal disease? You might even speculate that your family history could be to blame.

Are pilonidal cysts hereditary? Researchers still debate the exact causes of pilonidal disease, but some studies do indicate a hereditary component. To learn more about the family connections associated with pilonidal sinuses, keep reading.

Causes of Pilonidal Disease

Scientists understand what a pilonidal cyst is. It's a small cavity that forms underneath the skin, and a tunnel connects it to the skin's surface. The opening may look like a small pit in your skin. (By the way, "pilonidal sinus" is actually a better name for this condition than "pilonidal cyst.")

Hair, dead skin and other debris can be trapped in this pocket. An infection can develop as a result. This turns the cavity into an abscess.

What experts are less clear on is what exactly causes this unnatural tract and cavity to develop in the first place. Some people are born with a small pit at the top of the buttocks, and it can become infected. However, this congenital condition isn't the typical cause of pilonidal disease.

Rather, most researchers think that the problem is associated with hair. Many think that the trouble begins when a coarse hair irritates the pores near the top of the buttocks. Others think that pressure in the area is to blame for blocking or inflaming those pores and hair follicles.

Factors with Genetic Components

Although the exact cause of pilonidal disease is not fully understood, experts do have a good understanding of many of the risk factors that increase your chances of developing this condition.

Hair Characteristics

People with stiff, coarse hair may be more likely to develop a pilonidal cyst. Having a lot of body hair can also be a contributing factor. The texture and thickness of your hair may be a characteristic that you inherit from your parents.


Those who are overweight or obese may be at greater risk of developing a pilonidal sinus. As you gain weight, your buttocks may increase in size, and your natal cleft may become deeper.

Because of this additional tissue, it can be harder to keep the cleft clean and dry. The cleft may have less exposure to oxygen, which can create an environment where bacteria are able to thrive.

Studies have demonstrated a strong connection between weight and genetics. There are over 240 genes that can play a role in your body size. The following video shows that even children's weight may be influenced by heredity:

Skin and Body Characteristics

Your genetics also play a role in other body characteristics. These, too, could predispose you to pilonidal sinuses.

No matter a person's weight, some buttocks shapes and natal cleft depths are simply better suited for the development of pilonidal cysts than others. It's possible that you might be more prone to this condition simply because of the body shape that you inherited from your parents.

Your genes also play a role in your skin type. Some people deal with blocked or irritated pores more often than others. If you've inherited sensitive skin like this, you might be at a greater risk of developing pilonidal sinuses.

Research About the Heredity of Pilonidal Sinuses

There are limited studies that have sought to answer the question "Are pilonidal cysts hereditary?" However, researchers have noted that family history can play a role in this condition.

One study looked at nearly 600 people who had dealt with pilonidal disease. 12 percent of the test subjects had a brother or father who had also suffered from the condition. Those with a family history of the disease first experienced symptoms at a younger age.

Additionally, that group was more likely to experience a recurrence years after the initial onset. In many of those cases, those with a family connection experienced a fresh round of symptoms a full 25 years after their first bout with the disease.

A family history of pilonidal sinuses is no guarantee that you'll end up with this disease. Likewise, you could develop the condition even if no one else in your immediate family has ever been afflicted by it. Nonetheless, the evidence does indicate that pilonidal disease is, at least in part, affected by the genes that a person inherits.

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