What are the treatments for pilonidal cysts?

Updated December 15, 2016

Pilonidal cysts are a common condition affecting the cleft just above the buttocks. Small pits full of hair, dead skin or other debris form and may even become infected. The condition is thought to be partially caused by increased exercise involving the area, like horseback riding or cycling. Some even think that sitting for long periods of time can also lead to pilonidal cysts. Regardless of how your pilonidal cysts form, there are several available treatments.

Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis

Pilonidal cysts are dimples or pits near the cleft above the buttocks. They are often caused by hair and skin debris that have found its way into skin and infected the area. Some pilonidal cysts may even have pus, blood or other fluid draining from them. Because you normally do not see your buttocks cleft, the first sign of pilonidal cysts is pain in the area while walking or sitting. You may also feel swelling or warmth in the area. Your health care provider can examine the area and make a diagnosis without further testing.

Home Remedies

Pilonidal cysts are caused by hair, dead skin or other debris affecting the skin in your buttocks cleft. Once you are aware of the situation, minor conditions can be treated by keeping the area very clean and letting the debris work its way out. Bathe at least once a day and wash with antibacterial soap. You may also want to swab the area two to three times a day with alcohol. A warm compress on the area may help the debris to work itself out of the skin.

Antibiotic Therapy

For conditions that have worsened, further treatment may be necessary. Sometimes the pilonidal cysts become infected, developing into pilonidal abscesses. These cysts have blood and fluid draining from them. Infection from pilonidal abscesses can worsen over time and may even spread the infection through your body. If that occurs your health care provider may prescribe a two-week course of antibiotics such as metronidazole or erythromycin. This is rare, though, and antibiotics have no effect on normal pilonidal cysts.


When pilonidal cysts develop complications, surgery may be required. There are different ways to surgically treat this condition. One way involves opening the pilonidal cyst during surgery, cleaning the area and allowing it to heal on its own. Some physicians prefer to close the wound during the surgery, rather than allow it to heal on its own. This speeds up the patient's recovery time, but there is a high recurrence rate. On the other hand, if the wound is allowed to close on its own, it is less likely that the condition will reoccur. Either way, the surgery is minor and noninvasive.

Preventive Treatment

Some people are prone to chronic pilonidal cysts. To avoid developing cysts or having those cysts develop into abscesses, good hygiene is important. You should wash at least once a day, especially around the buttock crease with antibacterial soap. For those with particularly course hair, you may want to exfoliate around the area. Dead skin and loose hair often lead to pilonidal cysts. Make the last part you rinse your buttocks cleft. This will prevent dead hair from your shampooing routine from lodging in the area.

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About the Author

Michaele Curtis began writing professionally in 2001. As a freelance writer for the Centers for Disease Control, Nationwide Insurance and AT&T Interactive, her work has appeared in "Insurance Today," "Mobiles and PDAs" and "Curve Magazine." Curtis holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Louisiana State University.