What Is a Pilonidal Cyst?

man with painful butt soreness

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  • Also called a pilonidal sinus disease (PNS), this condition can be extremely painful, embarrassing and may lead to infection
  • The occurrence of pilonidal disease has been noted as early as 1833, wherein British physiologist Dr. Herbert Mayo described a hair-containing cyst found just below the coccyx, or tailbone

Cysts can grow anywhere in the body, but there is one particular type that forms on the area at the top of the buttocks – it’s called a pilonidal cyst. Also called a pilonidal sinus disease (PNS), this condition can be extremely painful, embarrassing and may lead to infection.1 Here’s what you need to know about pilonidal cysts.

What Does a Pilonidal Cyst Look Like?

Basically, a pilonidal cyst (pronounced “pie-low-NIE-dul”) is a large, pimple-like sac that forms in the cleft at the top of the crease of the buttocks. This abnormal pocket in the skin is filled with hair and skin debris, as well as dirt.2,3

The occurrence of pilonidal disease has been noted as early as 1833, wherein British physiologist Dr. Herbert Mayo described a hair-containing cyst found just below the coccyx, or tailbone.4 In 1880, .M. Hodge coined the term “pilonidal” based on the Latin words "pilus," meaning “hair,” and "nidus" or “nest” – so literally, this condition means “nest of hair.”5

A pilonidal cyst can be extremely painful and may become infected – when this happens, the cyst may ooze blood and pus and emit a foul odor. An infected pilonidal cyst is then called a pilonidal abscess.

What Causes a Pilonidal Cyst to Form and Who Is at Risk?

The exact reason why pilonidal cysts form is unknown, although many physicians believe that a variety of factors can greatly contribute to its appearance. Changing hormones, friction from clothes, abnormal hair growth and excessive sitting are some of the potential factors.6

Ingrown hairs are among the primary risk factors of pilonidal cyst growth, and hair follicles are usually seen inside these growths.

Another popular theory is that trauma to the tailbone can lead to pilonidal cysts. This was because during World War II, over 80,000 soldiers complained of pilonidal cysts and required professional medical attention. It was believes that the bumpy rides in Jeeps caused irritation. In fact, the condition was also called “Jeep disease.”7 Today, truck drivers and cab drivers are said to be at an increased risk for this condition.

Men have a higher risk of getting pilonidal cysts than women, and it’s believed that Caucasians are more prone to it than other ethnic groups. It usually manifests in those who are between 15 to 24 years old and is rarely seen in people ages 40 and above.8

Pilonidal cysts can come in different sizes, some appearing like a small pimple, while others can cover quite a large area, and be very painful. Aside from the pain, the condition may come with other symptoms like fever and redness and swelling in the affected area.9

What to Do If You Have a Pilonidal Cyst

If a pilonidal cyst becomes infected, it will need to be drained through a small incision. Another option is surgical removal.10 However, make sure you consult a physician to help you deal with this in a safe and hygienic manner, so that reinfection or further complications will not occur.

MORE ABOUT PILONIDAL CYST

Pilonidal Cyst: Introduction

What Is a Pilonidal Cyst?

Pilonidal Cyst Symptoms

Pilonidal Cyst Causes

Pilonidal Cyst Treatment

Pilonidal Cyst Surgery

Pilonidal Cyst Prevention

Pilonidal Cyst Diet

Pilonidal Cyst FAQ

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