Pilonidal Cyst FAQ: Common Pilonidal Cyst Questions Answered

Pilonidal Cyst FAQ: Common Pilonidal Cyst Questions Answered

Do you have questions about pilonidal cysts? Whether you suspect you have one or have been officially diagnosed with one, you may want more information about this condition.

Pilonidal cysts can be painful and unpleasant. The more you know, the better prepared you'll be to get the treatment that you need.

Check this pilonidal cyst FAQ list to find answers to your most pressing questions about this condition.

What is a pilonidal cyst?

A pilonidal cyst is a channel that runs under the skin of your buttocks. It starts near the cleft of the buttocks and works its way into the tissue.

At the end of the pilonidal tract, there's a cavity. That pocket can collect dead skin cells, oil, bits of hair, dirt and other debris. Infections can develop inside, and the cavity may fill with pus. During an active infection, it's known as a pilonidal abscess.

Technically, "pilonidal sinus" is a better term for this condition than "pilonidal cyst." Most of the time, though, people use the word "cyst" anyway.

What causes pilonidal cysts?

Researchers are still learning about why pilonidal cysts develop. It may be that coarse pieces of hair work their way under the skin and lead to infections. There could also be inflammation that arises in a hair follicle and causes a sinus to form.

What are the symptoms of a pilonidal cyst?

Pilonidal infections hurt! You're sure to notice the pain near the bottom of your tailbone. Sitting down may be the most uncomfortable position.

You may have a swollen mass in that area, too. The skin may be red. Pilonidal cysts can leak pus or blood. The discharge may smell bad. In some cases, an infection could give you a fever or a general sense of malaise.

Who gets pilonidal cysts?

Some people have a higher chance of developing this condition than others.

  • Being male
  • Being a young adult, especially between the ages of 20 and 35
  • Having coarse body hair
  • Being overweight
  • Spending long stretches of time sitting

There are some hereditary factors for this condition, such as having coarse body hair.

How can you treat a pilonidal cyst at home?

It's best to see a doctor for a pilonidal cyst, but you can take care of yourself while waiting for an appointment. You may feel better after taking over-the-counter pain relievers, soaking in a warm bath or applying warm compresses. Warmth may encourage the cyst to drain naturally, which will provide some relief.

Be gentle on your buttocks by wearing loose clothing and sitting on padded surfaces.

Should you pop a pilonidal cyst?

No, it's best not to try draining your pilonidal cyst on your own. Don't squeeze it to force out the pus or pierce it with a needle. Those activities could lead to more serious infections.

What should you do if a pilonidal cyst pops?

While you shouldn't intentionally pop your pilonidal sinus, don't panic if yours bursts spontaneously.

It will be messy, though, and it may smell foul. Cleaning up the mess in the shower may reduce the likelihood of spreading the infection.

Schedule an appointment with your doctor to have the sinus checked. In the meantime, keep the area clean and dry, and use a gauze pad to absorb any drainage.

What can a doctor do for a pilonidal cyst?

You can't take a pill to make a pilonidal sinus go away. Antibiotics could make a small difference, but the sinus tract will still be present.

The doctor may do an in-office drainage procedure to remove the pus and debris. This will relieve the pressure and pain, but, as with antibiotics, it won't take care of the tract itself.

This video shows the procedure:

For a long-term solution, especially if you've had multiple recurrences, you may need surgery.

What is pilonidal cyst surgery?

There are several varieties of surgery available for pilonidal treatment. Some excisions remove all of the affected tissue. Others take off only the top layer and leave the bottom half of the tract in the body to heal. Pit-picking excises only the pocket at the end of the tract.

Recovery after surgery can be tough. Fortunately, you may be a candidate for a minimally invasive laser surgery instead. For this procedure, the doctor inserts a laser probe to ablate the tract and seal it shut. Laser treatment involves easier recovery periods and often has promising long-term results.

How can you prevent pilonidal cysts?

There's no guaranteed way to prevent this condition, but you can take preventive measures.

The top tips for pilonidal cyst prevention include:

  • Watching your weight
  • Keeping your backside clean and dry
  • Showering after sweating heavily
  • Removing excess body hair with razors, depilatory creams or laser procedures
  • Exercising regularly and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle
  • Wearing loose clothing that doesn't chafe your backside

For those who have experienced repeated pilonidal infections, surgery may be the best way to lower the possibility of another recurrence.

Care for Your Pilonidal Cyst

If you suspect that you have pilonidal disease, you should consult your doctor. Your healthcare provider can offer personalized guidance to supplement what you learned in this pilonidal cyst FAQ guide. The doctor can also work with you to determine the right treatment plan for your needs.

A colorectal specialist will provide expert pilonidal sinus care. Find a specialist in your state who performs laser ablation with our online Find a Doctor portal.

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