Are Pilonidal Cysts Related to Spina Bifida?
You've been diagnosed with a pilonidal cyst. Is that a sign that you might have spina bifida?
It's true that there are sometimes pilonidals cyst related to spina bifida. However, in most cases, it's unlikely that your pilonidal disease is pointing to an undiscovered spinal defect.
If you're ready to learn more, take a look at the following guide. It will help you learn more about spina bifida, pilonidal cysts and the potential relationship between the two conditions.
Three Types of Spina Bifida
The term "spina bifida" applies to a range of spinal cord defects that occur before birth.
There are three levels of this condition:
To learn more about what's involved in spina bifida, watch the following video:
Signs of Spina Bifida Occulta
The mildest form of spina bifida, spina bifida occulta, is more common than you might realize. Some experts estimate that up to 20 percent of people have this spinal cord condition, but many aren't aware of it.
Spina bifida occulta often causes no outward symptoms. Therefore, some people may go their entire lives without realizing that they have it. Others may learn about the condition after undergoing a scan for an unrelated purpose.
However, some people do show small signs of their spina bifida occulta. The skin or tissue near the base of the spine may look a little different than the skin around it.
These subtle markers of spina bifida occulta include:
Standard Development of Pilonidal Cysts
True pilonidal disease isn't related to spina bifida at all. It occurs when a small tunnel extends from the outer level of the skin to a cavity within the tissue. These sinuses most often form at the cleft of the buttocks.
Pilonidal sinuses are unnatural. They develop after birth, usually in a person's teens, 20s or 30s.
Experts disagree over the exact causes of pilonidal disease, but they believe that the development of the pilonidal sinus and cyst is related to hair. Perhaps a hair follicle becomes irritated, and scar tissue forms around it. Another theory is that tough ingrown hairs work their way under the skin to begin the irritation.
However the irritation begins, once the pilonidal sinus and cyst form, they often begin to accumulate bits of hair, skin and dirt. Oil and bacteria can build up in the cavity as well. This pocket of debris is prone to infection, which can cause symptoms like pain, oozing, redness and swelling.
Sacral Dimples and Pilonidal Disease
There are cases in which pilonidal infections have a congenital connection.
Some people are born with a sacral dimple — a small hole or indentation in the skin. According to some estimates, 5 to 8 percent of babies have this condition. Sometimes, sacral dimples are a sign of spina bifida occulta; however, many instances aren't related to spinal cord malformations.
Sacral dimples can appear anywhere between the lower back and the top of the buttocks. They're often found near the gluteal cleft, which is where pilonidal sinuses typically develop.
You can get more information about sacral dimples in the following video:
Much like the cavity at the end of a sinus is likely to accumulate shed skin cells and other dirt, a sacral dimple can gather this sort of debris.
If the dimple becomes infected, it can turn into a pilonidal abscess. Symptoms and treatment may be similar to those for standard pilonidal disease that forms in an unnatural sinus.
Preventing Infection in Sacral Dimples
If you or your child has a sacral dimple from spina bifida occulta or another condition, you may be able to take steps to reduce the likelihood of infection.
A clean, dry environment discourages bacterial growth, so it's wise to maintain careful hygiene practices. You should thoroughly wash the area with soap and water on a regular basis. Dry your buttocks well after a shower, and don't let damp fabric rest up against the spot for too long.
Take care to keep stool out of the dimple. This may not be difficult for adults, but it can be a challenge with diapered children. Placing diaper ointment over the dimple can help to form a barrier. Be sure to wipe the dimple clean during each diaper change.
Thick hairs that work their way under the skin are thought to be a trigger for pilonidal disease. If you have spina bifida occulta that is accompanied by a patch of tough hair near your buttocks, you may want to consider removing it through depilatory creams, laser treatment or shaving. Hair removal has been proven effective at reducing pilonidal flare-ups.
Finally, stay in contact with your doctor. For one thing, it's a good idea to consult a healthcare professional about the presence of a sacral dimple in order to rule out any underlying conditions. In addition, the doctor can monitor the status of the dimple to keep an eye out for infections or other complications.
To sum it up, you typically won't find pilonidals cyst related to spina bifida. However, in some cases, a pilonidal abscess may form in a sacral dimple, and that small indentation could be a sign of a minor form of spina bifida.