Pilonidal Cyst Definition:- Sacs filled with hair and skin fragments that form at the end of the tail bone, at the top crease of the buttocks above the sacrum are called Pilonidal Cysts.
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How does a Pilonidal Cyst occur?
A pilonidal cyst is an abnormal growth in the skin that usually contains hair and skin debris. It is located at the extreme end of the tail bone and at the top crease of the buttocks above the sacrum. It usually occurs when hair perforates the skin and gets embedded in it. The fluid filled sac which is formed can get infected and form an abscess which is often very painful.
It is more common in men than women and occurs at a young age.
30 people in every 100000 people face problems with Pilonidal cysts every year. It occurs predominantly in males who are in their late teens or early twenties. It rarely occurs at any age above 40 years. People who have a family history of Pilonidal cysts are at an increased risk of developing it.
Size of a Pilonidal Cyst
The size of these cysts can range anywhere from a few cm to inches. It can be as small as a pea and as large as a grape in size.
Pilonidal Cyst Symptoms
The extent and severity of symptoms depend from person to person. Some patients may be asymptomatic and the cyst can only be felt on touching it. It is when the cyst becomes infected, it starts showing signs and symptoms. Some of the symptoms that can be seen are:
- Pain in the lower spine area or on the tailbone
- Sudden warmness of the affected skin
- Swelling surrounding the affected area
- Seeping of pus or blood from the affected area because of opening in the skin
- Redness of the affected area
- Sudden onset of fever in some cases
- Foul smell from the draining pus
Pilonidal Cyst Causes
The exact cause of these cysts is still not clear. However, some doctors believe that these cysts are present since the time of birth and arise from embryologic cells. They are caused by a combination of changing hormones, penetration of loose hair in the skin through dilation of hair follicles into the subcutaneous tissues. In response to the infiltrated hair, an inflammatory reaction causes a cyst like structure to form around the affected area and the skin debris.
In some cases, the cyst becomes infected and immediate hospitalization is required in such cases.
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What are the risk factors associated with Pilonidal cysts?
There are certain factors that make you more susceptible to developing pilonidal cysts. They are:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Excessive body hair
- Prolonged sitting
- Taut or coarse hair
- Male gender
- Teenage or early twenties age group
When to seek medical attention?
Some pilonidal cysts are asymptomatic in nature whereas some get infected and become very painful. They need to be drained in order to be treated. If symptoms become worse over a period of time, you must consult a doctor and seek medical attention immediately.
Pilonidal Cyst Complications
Some complications associated with Pilonidal cysts are:
- Abscess formation
- Spreading of infection to other parts of the body rapidly
- Squamous cell carcinoma ( skin cancer formation within the cyst)
- Recurrence of the cyst
Diagnosis of a Pilonidal Cyst
A doctor can diagnose a pilonidal cyst by studying the patient’s medical and family history and performing physical examination. The doctor may look out for the following:
- Inflammation, tenderness and redness between the cheeks of the buttocks below the tailbone and the surrounding area
- Unexpected fever
- Increased WBC or White Blood Cells level
- Pus formation inside the cyst
Pilonidal Cyst Treatment
It is important to understand that antibiotics do not heal a pilonidal cyst. However, there are few procedures and treatments that can be used to treat them.
Incision and Drainage :- The most preferred technique for treating a pilonidal cyst is creating an incision and draining the cyst which included removing the hair follicles and debris that are a part of it. It is a very simple procedure that is done under the administration of local anaesthesia. Post-drainage, the treated area demand a lot of care which includes frequently changing the bandage until the cyst heals completely.
Marsupialization :- This procedure involves creating an incision, draining the pus, hair follicles and debris and sewing the edges of the fibrous tract to the edges of the wound to make a sac. This procedure minimizes the size and extent of the wound and requires at least six to eight weeks for the wound to heal completely.
Treatment of the infection :- If the cyst is severely infected, the doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotics. However, this will not heal the wound completely but will give you relief from pain and infection.
Phenol Injection :- This procedure involves administration of local anesthesia first, followed by a phenol injection which acts as an antiseptic for the cyst. This procedure may need to be repeated several times, until the cyst abrasion becomes stiff and closes. The only disadvantage being that the rate of re-occurrence is high in this case.
Pilonidal Cyst Home Remedies
There are several tried and tested home remedies that come handy in case of pilonidal cysts. Some of them are:
- Removing unwanted hair :- One of the most effective ways of staying clean from pilonidal cysts is maintaining personal hygiene and keeping the affected area clean at all times. Keep the area free from excess hair and remove unwanted hair from time to time. Use a sterilized shaving blade or a hair removal cream. Be very careful while shaving so that you do not end up cutting open the cyst.
- Cleaning the affected area regularly :- It is very important to clean the affected area in order to keep it free from dirt and toxins and keep it safe from infections. Clean the area around the cyst with soap or a cleansing agent prescribed by your doctor at least twice a day. Avoid using cosmetic soaps as they contain harsh chemicals that can increase irritation and infection.
- Avoid cosmetics and irritants :- Keep the area dry as much as possible and avoid using cosmetic powders, deodorants and perfumes. A moist environment can cause the infection to rapidly spread to other parts of the body.
- Opt for a healthy diet :- Include plenty of fruits and vegetables to keep up your immunity and stay safe from infections. Add foods like garlic, mushrooms, chicken, ginger, turmeric, honey, citrus fruits and vegetables and black pepper to your daily diet. Garlic has amazing antibacterial properties and can help in dealing with infection.
- Apply hot compress or heat pads :- Applying hot compresses or heat pads can help in bringing down inflammation and pain to some extent. Use a hot water bottle or a heating pad two to three times a day.
- Exercise :- Exercise regularly in order to maintain blood flow and increase blood circulation. Increased blood flow to the cyst area can help control infection and provide relief from pain, inflammation and redness.
- Epsom salt :- You can also sit in an Epsom salt bath for 15-20 minutes every day to get immediate relief from pain and swelling. Just add two teaspoons of Epsom salt in a tub of warm water and your Epsom salt bath is ready!
- Apple Cider Vinegar :- Apple cider vinegar being acidic in nature helps in removing excess toxins from the cyst. Soak a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar solution and dab it on the cyst without applying pressure. You can also wash the affected area with apple cider vinegar solution twice a day.
- Aloe Vera :- Aloe Vera is useful for fighting skin infections which makes it a good and effective home remedy for pilonidal cysts. Scoop out some gel from Aloe Vera leaves and blend with castor oil. Dab it on the cyst and leave for few hours. You can do this at least 3-4 times a day.
- Iodine solution :- Iodine solution helps in providing relief from pilonidal cyst. Soak a cotton ball in iodine solution and attach it to the cyst with a gauze or band aid.
Check out these pictures of pilonidal cysts that will help you understand them better.
Pilonidal cyst location
Pilonidal cyst surgery
Closer look at a pilonidal cyst