A pilonidal cyst is found near the tailbone or top of the buttocks crease. It may look like a pit or small depression. In some cases, it may have a hollow tunnel (sinus tract) that connects it to the surface of the skin. Normally, a pilonidal cyst does not cause symptoms. But if it becomes infected, it can cause pain and swelling. This sheet tells you more about pilonidal cysts and how they are treated.
What Causes a Pilonidal Cyst and Who Gets Them?
The cause of these cysts is not clear. They may form when a hair is forced under the skin or when a hair follicle ruptures. Or, a person may be born with the cyst. These cysts are often diagnosed in people between the ages of 16 and 26. But people of any age can have a pilonidal cyst. And they affect both men and women.
Symptoms of a Pilonidal Cyst Infection
A pilonidal cyst does not cause symptoms unless it becomes infected. Infection may cause the following symptoms:
- Pain, redness, and swelling of the cyst and area around it
- Foul-smelling drainage from the cyst
Diagnosing a Pilonidal Cyst
A pilonidal cyst can be diagnosed by how it looks and by its location. Your doctor will examine the suspected cyst to confirm a diagnosis. You will be told if any tests are needed.
Treating a Pilonidal Cyst Infection
Most pilonidal cysts are left alone. If a cyst becomes infected, though, treatment is needed. It may include the following:
- Antibiotic medications for the infection. Know that medications do not make the cyst go away. They also won't keep a cyst from becoming infected again.
- Hot water soaks to help draw out the infection and relieve pain and itching.
- Incision and drainage if needed. The cyst is cut open and pus and other infected material is allowed to drain.
- Excision of the cyst for infection that is severe, does not respond to medications, or keeps coming back. A surgeon cuts and removes the cyst and the tissue around it. Your doctor can tell you more if this is needed.
A pilonidal cyst can easily become infected. Do the following to help prevent infections:
- Keep the cyst and surrounding skin area clean.
- Remove hair from the area of the cyst regularly. Ask your doctor about safe hair removal products or procedures.
- Avoid sitting in one position for long periods of time. This helps to reduce weight and pressure on your tailbone area.
- Sitting on a special cushion to relieve pressure on the tailbone may also help. Ask your doctor about where to purchase these cushions.
- Avoid tight-fitting clothing to reduce skin irritation around the cyst.